LUMBERTON — Nearly 1,200 students graduated Friday from the seven high schools of the Public Schools of Robeson County in ceremonies across the county.
Donned in caps and gowns in hues of their school’s colors and wearing smiles nearly as wide as the stage they walked across, the graduates culminated their high school experience to thundering rounds of applause.
For the following 14 students, graduation came with the recognition of having graduated at the head of their class. These are Robeson County’s best and brightest, many of them leading their schools in more than just academics.
Fairmont High School
Eighteen-year-old valedictorian Bryan C. Lewis will attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he plans to study Pharmacy and hopes he will meet new people.
“I’m excited to be able to interact with people that are from all over the nation and all over the world,” he said.
Lewis is the president and vice president of the Beta Club, the president of the Interact Club and the president and vice president of FFA. He has been awarded the Cape Fear Farm Credit scholarship and the Fairmont Rotary Club scholarship.
Salutatorian Alex A. Martinez, 17, will attend The University of North Carolina at Pembroke to study Information Technology.
“I’ve always liked working with computers,” he said. “It’s a growing field, and it will be an easy way to get a job.”
Martinez is a member of the Beta Club, Art Club, National Technical Honor Society, National Art Honor Society and Skills U.S.A.
“I was kind of worried I might end up being No. 3,” he said of learning that he was to be salutatorian. “When I heard, I felt really accomplished and satisfied that I fulfilled my goal to be salutatorian.”
Lumberton High School
Valedictorian William Parker, 17, has been awarded the Florence Kidder Memorial Scholarship and National Merit Scholarship, which he will use to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapell Hill to study either History or Political science with a minor in Journalism.
“I want to pursue a career in medicine as a radiologist,” he said.
He is the president of the student body, member of the track team, captain of the cross country team, co-captain of the swim team, co-captain of Science Olympiad, member of the Beta Club, member of the National Honor Society, an Eagle Scout and the pianist at St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church.
“I felt honored,” he said of learning that he was valedictorian. “It’s a privilege.”
Salutatorian Michael Bailey, 18, is planning on double majoring in Chemical and Paper Science Engineering at N.C. State University.
“I foresee myself in a management position, hopefully working to improve the production of paper,” he said.
He has been awarded the Cape Fear Farm Credit Scholarship and the Pulp and Paper Foundation Scholarship.
Bailey is the president of his youth group at Chestnut St. United Methodist church and co-captain of the Science Olympiad, soccer and swim teams.
He is captain of the tennis team, member of the Beta Club and the National Honor Society, and an Eagle Scout.
“I was excited,” he said of learning that he was salutatorian. “It’s pretty surreal.”
Purnell Swett High School
At Purnell Swett High School, valedictorian Karli Moore, 18, plans to major in chemistry at North Carolina State University, where she will be a Park scholar.
“I’m thinking about going on to medical school or furthering my education in chemistry to become a professor,” she said.
Moore served as president of the Future Farmers of America, and secretary of Health Occupations Students of America and of the Student Government Association. She was co-chair of the N.C. Native American Youth Organization and played on the varsity softball and bowling teams.
“I was excited,” she said of learning that she was valedictorian. “I’ve always wanted to do my best in school. Since I got to high school that’s something I’ve been working toward. I’m very thankful to all those who helped me do as well as I did in school.”
Salutatorian Tyler Baker, 18, plans to begin his college career by studying science at Lenoir Community College in Kinston, and later transferring to East Carolina University to study Physical Therapy.
Baker, who was a member of the cross country, baseball and wrestling teams as well as the football and basketball cheerleading squads, said he wants to continue on to get a doctorate in Sports Medicine. Baker was also a member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the National Beta Club and the National Honors Society.
“I know I had some people on my tail trying to get No. 2,” he said. “I knew they were right behind me.”
Red Springs High School
Valedictorian Chelsi Oxendine, 18, wants to major in Animal Science at North Carolina State University.
“I want to be a veterinarian because I was raised on a farm,” she said. “And I want to move to Florida and work on a horse track, but I also want to help my community. I want to build a community center with daily activities for children.”
She has been awarded the Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship and a Dixie Youth Baseball scholarship.
Oxendine is a member of the Beta Club, the Native American Student Organization, the National Technical Honor Society and the school’s Math and Science clubs. She plays volleyball, basketball and softball.
“I was kind of happy to know that my hard work paid off through high school,” she said.
Rayshawn Locklear made family history when he was awarded salutatorian.
“I was excited; I was really excited and I was happy. There has never been a salutatorian in my family,” he said.
Locklear will study Engineering at Fayetteville State University, and he is planning on transferring to North Carolina State University. He has been awarded the Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship.
He is the president of the National Technical Honor Society, president of the American Indian Association and secretary of the Student Government Association.
Robeson Early College
Eighteen-year-old valedictorian Melissa Kratz will attend Campbell University in the fall, where she will use her Scott Ellis Scholarship to study pharmacy.
“I’ve always liked chemistry and found science interesting,” she said.
Kratz is a member of the early college’s Go Green Club.
“I was pretty excited because it was something that I had worked really hard for,” she said of learning she was valedictorian.
Salutatorian Niageria Lusk, 18, will begin her path toward a doctorate at North Carolina Technical State University, where she will study engineering.
A member of Phi Beta Kappa Honors Society, the Beta Club, and the National Technical Society, she has been awarded a Minority Access to Research Careers scholarship, which will pay her tuition.
“I’m excited about finishing up school and going to to get my Ph.D.,” she said.
South Robeson High School
Valedictorian Jessica Oxendine, 17, will attend the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the fall, where she plans to major in Pre-Med. Oxendine said she hopes to continue on to medical school to become an obstetrician and gynecologist.
“I always loved babies, and I always loved to babysit,” she said, adding that she will soon start an internship with a local OB-GYN.
While at South Robeson, Oxendine was a member of the National Beta Club, the Native American Student Association, the American Indian Science and Engineering Students, and Students Making a Change. She was president of the Future Business Leaders of America, Health Occupations Students of America and the Native American Student Association.
Oxendine has received the Golden LEAF scholarship for $12,000; the Lumbee Guarantee Bank scholarship for $1,000; and the Fred Morrison scholarship from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for $18,000.
Sixteen-year-old salutatorian Harley Locklear is graduating a year earlier than most because he skipped seventh grade.
Locklear will head to UNC Chapel Hill in the fall, where he plans to major in Biology and Psychology. After that, he wants to go on to medical school — hopefully at Harvard University, where he plans to study pediatrics.
“Growing up, I took care of my nieces and nephews,” Locklear said. “I’d babysit and stuff like that, and I like babies. … My love for the science is why I plan on going into medicine, so put two and two together and that’s what I get.”
Locklear is in the National Beta Club, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the Robeson County Youth Leadership Cabinet, and the U.S. Army’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps.
St. Pauls High School
Eighteen-year-old valedictorian Andrea Bound plans to study Forensic Chemistry at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
”I’ve always been interested in stuff like that,” she said. “I juggled with Criminology, but I also like science so I figured I’d put the two together.”
A North Carolina Scholar, Bound was named to the Superintendent’s Honor Roll each of her four years in high school. In her junior year she became a member of the National Honor Society, earned American Scholar recognition, and was named a Junior Student of Excellence.
Bound played softball, basketball and volleyball during her freshman and sophomore years. She also volunteered at the Robeson County Animal Shelter and was a member of the Youth Group at First Baptist Church.
Eighteen-year-old Joseph Clayton was only a little surprised to snag the salutatorian spot.
“I kinda had a feeling I was right there at it last year, but I didn’t know for sure,” he said.
A recipient of the William Estei Memorial Scholarship and the Jenny McLean Scholarship, Clayton plans to study Animal Science at N.C. State University, which has awarded him the James A. Stewart scholarship.
Clayton has been a member of the FFA for all four years, and as a sophomore, junior and senior he participated as a volunteer in the FFA’s Partners in Active Learning program.
He is a member of the National Honor Society, treasurer of the National Technical Honor Society and a North Carolina Scholar. Clayton is also a member of the Big Marsh Volunteer Fire Department.