02/23/05 — 15 Wayne students attend N.C. School of Science and Math

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15 Wayne students attend N.C. School of Science and Math

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 23, 2005 2:13 PM

Fifteen Wayne County teens are finishing their last two years of high school at the first public residential high school in the country. The N.C. School of Science and Math outside Durham opened in 1980 and became a model for 16 similar schools around the world.

Each year, an estimated 300 students are chosen to attend the school. The quota is divided among the congressional districts in North Carolina. With two districts running through Wayne County, more students are eligible for acceptance.

Math and Science School students

News-Argus/Dennis Hill

Wayne County students completing high school at the N.C. School of Science and Math are, back row from left: Richard Pridgen, James Potts, Eric Jorgensen and Justin Craigwell-Graham. Middle row: John Dougherty, Garry Atkinson, Andrew Franklin, Jeremy Ford and Rebecca Wolf. Front row: Danielle Mouw, Ginny Moye and Teresa Crougy. Not shown: Jasmine Lagrone, Amanda Purser and Silpa Chittilla.

During a break from their studies last week, some of the teens shared their experiences getting a jump start on leaving home for college. Their reasons for applying ranged from wanting to get away from home to taking advantage of an opportunity many would otherwise not have.

Their aspirations were just as varied.

Ginny Moye, a senior who attended Southern Wayne High School before being accepted, plans to attend North Carolina State University and major in physics before going to medical school.

Justin Craigwell-Graham, a senior formerly from Eastern Wayne High, is undecided about future plans but says his favorite subject is history.

Garry Atkinson, a senior who attended Goldsboro High, is interested in fashion design and said he has applied to the Rhode Island School of Design.

Eric Jorgenson, a junior from Eastern Wayne, plans to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Danielle Mouw, a senior from Eastern Wayne, hopes to major in business in college, then attend law school.

Andrew Franklin, formerly from Wayne Country Day School, is now a senior. His plans include attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and major in biology.

Jeremy Ford, a senior from Spring Creek High, says he would like to major in chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Rebecca Wolf, a senior from Southern Wayne, wants to do something in the medical field.

Richard Pridgen, a junior from Charles B. Aycock, is interested in music but has not decided on his college plans.

John Dougherty, a junior who attended Eastern Wayne, would like to attend an in-state college and study on medicine.

Teresa Crougy, a junior who lived in Sanford when she applied but then moved to Goldsboro with her family, is uncertain about where she would like to attend college but wants to do something in the medical field.

James Potts, a senior who attended Spring Creek High, aspires to double major in chemistry and physics at N.C. State, then go into either engineering or medicine.

The school simulates the college experience in that students are living away from home, residing in dorms, and cannot have cars on campus. It also provides early doses of pressure to study and keep pace with others who made the cut to be there.

"I'm still coming to grips with it," John said. "You all go up there and thought you were the top stuff and right away get a nice inferiority complex."

"The classes are crazy," Richard said, adding that they are also more in-depth than the students are used to. "It can really help you decide what you want to do."

One difference Jeremy said he noticed from his previous high school experience was the focus of the students and teachers.

"There are rarely discipline problems in class," he said. "It's much more efficient. You get a lot more done."

Justin said at the Durham school, when a student asks a question, instead of giving the answer, teachers "keep asking a question until you get the answer. It makes you think analytically."

Students are also challenged to learn time management and apply themselves.

"Your priorities are different," Danielle said. "You forget about the petty things and zoom in on the things you have to do."

"That's the reason I went," Rebecca said, explaining that she had gone to St. Mary, a private school, for middle school.

"It was kind of a culture shock for me going to high school, for people not to respect the teachers. I wanted the structure."

While the School of Science and Math has a strong emphasis on those two subjects, the group said, it also has advanced courses, independent studies, and a variety of other courses as well.

"I'm horrible in math," Rebecca admitted.

"I love music," Richard said. "So I checked first to see that they had a good program in that."

Teresa said, "We're required to take math and science every year, but it's also rounded out with English, history and other electives."

The group agreed that while nothing could have prepared them for what the experience would be like, there has been great pride in what they can accomplish there.

"What you can do in two years is amazing," Danielle said. "You have met incredible people and the turnover rate is really high because people graduate and new ones come in.

"It's your one shot, your one opportunity to get what you can out of the school."

She said that while it is competitive, it's a healthy form.

"Everybody knows there's someone smarter than him," she said. "You all sort of mesh."

Teacher support is also helpful. Ginny said the educators are enthusiastic about being there and willing to help in any way they can.

"Even when we had snow last year, teachers walked or would cross country ski in," she said.

Students said it was an adjustment leaving home. Jeremy said his mom cried because he's the last child to leave; Andrew's brother was heading out for college at the same time.

Others like Rebecca said she and her three younger brothers now get along better and Danielle echoed the sentiment regarding her relationship with her parents.

The group said they are able to come home for visits and try to keep in touch with friends who are still here. They say the three most frequently-asked questions they hear are: "How's school?" "Do you like it?" and "Is it hard?"

Attending the residential school has allowed the students to strike out on their own earlier than their peers, while exploring what they want to do in the future. They also get to expand their options and are exposed to people from different backgrounds.

"I think the networking you get at the school is invaluable," Danielle said. "You really do get a one-up, whether it's by doing research with people at UNC, meeting faculty at Duke, talking with alumni."

"I have always heard that college is a breeze after going here," Richard said.