We can all agree that social distancing and quarantining has affected every one of us in some way. No matter what stage of life you’re in, staying at home—away from family and friends—has been challenging and sometimes downright depressing. To the pregnant moms longing to be accompanied by their husbands at doctor appointments again, I feel for you. To the teachers who feel like they can’t reach students virtually, I feel for you. To those who have lost their jobs, temporarily or permanently, due to COVID-19, I feel for you. To the couples whose weddings have been drastically changed or even postponed, I feel for you. To the college seniors who have worked their whole lives to walk across a stage and get a diploma, gosh…I feel for you.

But one of the biggest groups I feel for right now is the high school seniors. These kids have worked hard for 13 years for their senior year to be unexpectedly canceled with no celebration in sight to commemorate this special life event. My senior year of high school is one I look back to often for the fondest of memories and the most special of friends. I seriously hate that the class of 2020’s senior year ended the way it did, but the schools in Rowan County are doing all they can to celebrate them as much as physically possible during this time (and for that, I definitely applaud them!!) Yard signs bought by PTAs and Gofundme’s, shout outs on social media, virtual award ceremonies, rescheduled proms, “adopt a senior” Facebook pages, and promised graduations are some of the things I’ve seen already happening around the county to honor this special class.

And honor them we will continue to do! Rowan County has a history of producing some pretty remarkable graduates and people, and this year is no different! With this blog, I wanted to highlight and honor some of RoCo’s best and brightest seniors, the “academic and athletic all-stars” if you will. Mike London, and other Twitter accounts, do a great job spotlighting athletes and their accomplishments, but I wanted to spotlight seniors who have gone above and beyond throughout their high school careers and seen reward for that hard work! Thanks to all of the guidance counselors at each high school for sharing this information about their all-stars with me! Here we go!

A RAIDER at Heart with a Contagious Smile: Mikayla Childress, South Rowan High School

Future college and major: East Carolina University to major in Chemistry with hopes of becoming a PA.

Scholarship received: 1A NCHSAA Cheerleading Scholarship

 

Mikayla Childress, South Rowan High School graduate. 

 

What makes Mikayla special and unique:  Mikayla is such a hard worker. She is a very competitive athlete who dedicates 110 percent to the sport of cheerleading. Her mom says, “I remember very vividly one day during the spring of her eighth-grade school year when she came running in our family room and exclaimed, she was going to try out for Varsity Cheerleading at SRHS. My first thoughts were to encourage her to try out for JV. However, that look glaring in her eyes assured me that she had the determination of making Varsity Cheerleading way down in her spirit. She learned the fight song in less than an hour and perfected her jumps daily for tryouts. Needless to say, she made Varsity Cheer.” She has been faithful and dedicated to the sport ever since, and her squad was the first to win a State title in program and school history.  Mikayla gives it her ALL each and every performance. She’s a team-player and motivator.

Other things RoCO should know about Mikayla: She has made the All-American Cheerleading team for two years. She serves as the student body Vice President, a member of the National Honor Society, and a dedicated member of the Chick-Fil-A Leadership team. She enjoys serving on Crosby Scholars because she gets to volunteer and give back to her community!

Congrats on all you’ve accomplished, Mikayla! We look forward to seeing the amazing things you do in the future!

 

Mikayla Childress, South Rowan High School graduate. 

 

A Dedicated Goal-Getter: Dylan Shook, Henderson High School

 Dylan will be shipping out for base camp into the Marines in May!

Scholarship received: Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizens Award

What makes Dylan special and unique: He is kind and respectful, with a bright sense of humor and positive outlook on life. He understands the value of hard work and doing what is necessary to reach goals. Dylan’s infectious attitude was a joy for the staff and his peers to experience at Henderson, and we are all so proud of his achievements! Andie Sloan, his guidance counselor, describes Dylan as “dedicated to achieving his future goals.”

Thank you for your desire to serve our country, Dylan! We all appreciate and salute you!

A Positive History-Maker: Meredith Gaskill, Jesse C. Carson High School

Future college and major: NC State University, majoring in Fashion Textiles and Management

Scholarship received: The Park Scholarship and Centennial Scholarship from NC State University

What makes Meredith special and unique: She is the first student in Carson history to receive both the Park and Morehead-Cain scholarships, the two most prestigious scholarships at NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill.

 

Meredith Gaskill, Jesse C. Carson High School graduate. 

 

But even greater than her intelligence and work ethic is her heart. She is dedicated to making everybody feel like a somebody.

Fun Fact: Meredith started a women’s empowerment club at Carson called “HERoes.” The club volunteered at the Family Crisis Council and Pregnancy Support Center, started a prom closet at Carson, and had a can drive for Main Street Mission. Meredith says her inspiration for HERoes came from seeing girls at Carson and in the community struggling with things such as bullying, low self-esteem, and toxic relationships.

“I wanted to create a safe space where girls could support each other and build healthy relationships with girls from different backgrounds as well as develop leadership skills by serving the community and being kind,” says Meredith.

Meredith hopes that HERoes will continue to grow and flourish long after she graduates! She was also a Varsity cheerleader, President of Interact club, a member of the National Honors Society, FCA, Leadership, and Student Council, and loved going to YoungLife!

Way to go, Meredith! We can’t wait to see how you positively impact the world!

 

Meredith Gaskill, Jesse C. Carson High School graduate. 

 

At Rowan County Early College, they don’t have one senior to spotlight—they wanted to say that 93% of their seniors are on track to graduate with an Associate of Arts or an Associate of Science! Congrats!!

A Humble Leader: Jacob Kisamore, East Rowan High School

Future college and major: Elon University to major in Journalism and minor in Sports Management 

Scholarship received: Presidential Scholarship & Merit, Honors Fellows Scholarship

What makes Jacob special and unique: He stepped out of his comfort zone his senior year as Co-Editor of East Rowan’s yearbook, and he seeks excellence in all that he does.

His guidance counselors say, “Jacob is someone that will go above and beyond for anyone. He has tutored multiple students and he and his dad have taken bikes, restored them, then auctioned them off to raise money for Nazareth Children’s home.”

 

Jacob Kisamore, East Rowan High School graduate. 

 

Good luck, Jacob! Keep doing good in the world!

A Quiet Caregiver: Athena Thomas, East Rowan High School

Future college and major: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill to study Chemistry and Biology for a future as a Neurologist.

Scholarship received: The Carolina Covenant Scholarship

What makes Athena special and unique: She is someone you can depend on in any situation. Athena truly cares about others and wants to do all that she can to make the world a better place. She loves a challenge and is president of a number of clubs. She’s also won state and national awards through Future Business Leaders of America!

We are so proud of you, Athena! Good luck at Chapel Hill!

 

Athena Thomas (right), East Rowan High School graduate. 

 

A Selfless Giver: Allen Hicks, North Rowan High School

Future college and major: Appalachian State University to major in Nursing

What makes Allen special and unique: Allen earned his CNA and EMT certifications in his senior year of high school. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he recently relocated temporarily to Virginia to provide medical assistance on the front lines in Washington, DC. He is continuing his college career promise course at RCCC while working full time to fight COVID-19. 

Kia Creamer, a school counselor at North, says “Allen holds down several jobs, as he will be paying for his education on his own. He was the winner of the Service Above Self Award last year. Even after a public acknowledgement of his passion to help others, he has exponentially continued his passion quietly. Not many students or even staff are aware of what Allen is doing right now.”

 

Allen Hicks, North Rowan High School graduate.

 

Allen says that on April 17, he got the call to go to DC to work on the frontlines of COVID. He says, “Being a new EMT, I was nervous, but I knew God wouldn’t lead me to do something I wasn’t capable of doing. I didn’t have much time to think about leaving my family and traveling for two months so I had to make a rather impulsive decision. I accepted the job and was in D.C by April 19, 2020 and started my first shift Monday, April 20, at 4 a.m. Being as young and healthy as I am, I felt it was my responsibility to help those who were sick, though I was extremely nervous to leave home and take this nearly two-month trip. I have learned so much, and now my goal is to travel and help with disaster relief when such tragedy strikes!”

Allen, we are amazed at your selflessness and willingness to give back! Thank you for serving on the frontlines of COVID-19!

 

Someone You Can Count On: Ezra Nance, West Rowan High School

Future college and major: Catawba College, majoring in Biology

What makes Ezra special and unique: Ezra is an incredibly goal-oriented student that remains flexible when things don’t work out as planned. She led many blood drives at West Rowan and was incredibly involved in many aspects otherwise. Erin Shelton, the Intervention Specialist at West, says “Ezra is one of those students that staff immediately call on. Ezra served as this year’s Senior Class President, was a member of Serve U, Crosby Scholars, NHS, Track and Field Team, and Falcon Fanatics.”

Fun Fact: Stop by to see her at Sidewalk Deli in Downtown Salisbury!

Ezra, can’t wait to be a Catawba alum alongside of you!

A Determined Energy Conservationist: Anna Grace Woolly, Salisbury High School

Future college and major: Appalachian State University to major in Sustainable Development & Anthropology

Scholarship received: Chancellor’s Scholarship, the oldest and most distinguished full scholarship at ASU!

 

Anna Grace Woolly, Salisbury High School graduate. 

 

What makes Anna Grace special and unique: Her guidance counselors describe her as a selfless giver. “She feels morally obligated to serve others and volunteers countless hours in the community.  She is committed to social justice and environmental conservation.  She champions the rights of others and the planet that sustains us.”

One of the most notable of her many activities—she wrote a grant that funded the installation of six energy efficient, clean drinking water fountains at Salisbury High School!!!

What RoCo should know about Anna: Upon graduation, she will have earned four varsity letters in cross country track, soccer, and swimming, and one in golf. She is President of National Honor Society, Environmental Club, and Vice-President of Key Club.

Keep saving the planet, Anna! Good luck on your future endeavors!!!

 

Anna Grace and the Women’s Soccer Team of Salisbury High School. 

 

The Future Chemist: Anthony Bello, North Hills Christian School

Future college and major: UNC Chapel Hill, Chemistry

Scholarships received: The Carolina Covenant Scholarship which is full tuition to UNC Chapel Hill.

What makes Anthony special and unique: Anthony completed an Associates in Science at Stanly Community College through dual enrollment in high school and is an avid collector of foreign currency!

What RoCo should know about Anthony: He helps his dad run an ice cream truck business called Mr. Cone.

Best of luck at Chapel Hill, Anthony! We can’t wait to see all the neat things you create and come up with!

An Entrepreneurial Spirit: Tyler Hunt, North Hills Christian High School

Future college and major: UNC Chapel Hill, Biology/Business

His guidance counselor and Spanish instructor, Michael Templeton, says Tyler’s work ethic is what makes him special. “He goes full force in everything he does. He earned an Associates in Science from Stanly Community College with a 4.0 GPA while in high school!”

I think we’ll definitely be seeing more of Tyler, as he started a cotton candy/funnel cake business in second grade and even worked two seasons at Intimidators ballpark!

Best of luck at Chapel Hill, Tyler! We can’t wait to see all the neat things you create and come up with!

 

Tyler Hunt, North Hills Christian High School graduate.

 

I wish I could highlight every single senior in RoCo, as I know there are so many who will make such a positive impact on the world. Readers, anything you can do to spread love and light to anyone during this time, but especially our seniors, I encourage you to do so.

 

Congrats to the entire Class of 2020! YOU DID IT!

 

Stay happy and healthy, RoCo!