Local students honored for academic achievement

Teacher of the Year: “We can’t wait to see what you do next”

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

BUIES CREEK — Mariel Sellers tried to dispel a few myths for her audience of nearly 300 students in grades four through seven.

The Sandhills-South Central Region Teacher of the Year told the students, each a selected honoree for their academic achievement and test scores in the Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP), that:

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Lee Hayden and MacKenzie Spradlin, classmates at Rockingham Middle School, represent Richmond County on Tuesday during a Duke TIP program for academic high-achievers.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Lee Hayden and MacKenzie Spradlin, classmates at Rockingham Middle School, represent Richmond County on Tuesday during a Duke TIP program for academic high-achievers.

* “It is okay if you don’t know what you want to do” for a career. Sellers said people change jobs 10 or more times now.

“Everybody thinks they have to have it all figured out before college,” she said. “Guess what? You don’t.

* “Don’t forget it’s okay to relay on your Mom and Dad.”

Sellers, speaking during a 70-minute ceremony inside D. Rich Memorial Hall on the campus of Campbell University in Buies Creek, said it’s important for high-achieving students to surround themselves with like-minded friends, but oftentimes it’s at home where a student’s strongest foundation lies.

Among the nearly 300 students were Lee Hayden and MacKenzie Spradlin, Rockingham Middle School seventh-graders. Lee is the son of Tim and Nicole Hayden. MacKenzie is the daughter of Kevin and Stephanie Spradlin. Both students achieved high scores on the ACT or SAT exams taken earlier this academic year. To be honored in the state recognition ceremony, a seventh-grader had meet certain scores:

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Lee Hayden, son of Tim and Nicole Hayden, is congratulated by Jason Hall, assistant vice president for admissions at Campbell University.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Lee Hayden, son of Tim and Nicole Hayden, is congratulated by Jason Hall, assistant vice president for admissions at Campbell University.

* On the SAT, one of the following: At or above 530 in Math, at or above 510 in Critical Reading, at or above 500 in Writing or two of the three following scores — 520 in Math, 500 in Critical Reading and 490 in Writing.

* On the ACT, a student must score: At or above 21 in English, Math, Reading or Science or at least a 20 in three of the four areas.

In the 2015 talent search, a total of 22,236 students from Duke TIP’s 16-state region scored well enough to be invited to a state recognition ceremony — 40 percent of the students who completed testing. In North Carolina, 2,010 students qualified for the state recognition ceremony of the 4,942 who tested (40.6 percent).

Sellers is a science teacher at East Columbus High School but she told students her career aspirations first had her in an entirely different direction. She applied for acceptance into N.C. State University’s School of Design. Sellers said she imagined herself working for a prestigious New York City firm designing corporate logos.

That wasn’t, apparently, meant to be. After her audition and interview, she received a letter from N.C. State University. The first five words were all she needed to understand: “We regret to inform you …”

“All my hopes and dreams were inside of that envelope,” Sellers said.

With the rejection, “the next few weeks were terrible” as many of her friends’ lifelong dreams came true.

Sellers, though, pointed out there was a lesson in not getting what she wanted. She told students that “failure … could be the best thing that ever happens to you.”

Her suggestion?

“If you are going to fail — and you are going to fail — fail forward,” Sellers encouraged.

She noted imagineer expert Walt Disney was once fired from a job at a newspaper for not showing enough creativity. He only then oversaw the development of Walt Disney World theme parks.

“I think he adjusted pretty well,” Sellers noted wryly.

Seller said upon her rejection from the College of Design, she majored in biology. She liked science, after all. While in school, she decided to change majors again and become a science teacher.

“Everything worked out and I was really, really happy,” Sellers said of her love for science and teaching.

At the middle school age, becoming a veterinarian is a popular career choice, though no one acknowledged that as a dream. Sellers said that’s okay — because that job can get messy. She expressed appreciation for those who pursue that line of work but “it does not seem pleasant to me, and it almost never smells nice.”

“It is definitely not for me,” she said.

But for each child in the room — with the right support of friends, families and teachers — “the possibilities are endless.”

Sellers emphasized that the test scores were to be considered an achievement — each received a medal indicating just that — but suggested students not to be satisfied with resting on their laurels.

“Whatever it is, you can do it,” Sellers said. “If it is not out there, you can create it for yourself. And if you change your mind 100 times, that’ll be okay, too. If you don’t believe me, just ask your parents.”

Judy Elsey, talent search manager for the Duke TIP program that began 35 years ago, said the ceremony is “a stepping stone” to greater things for all seated in the auditorium.

Editor’s note: In the interest of full disclosure, MacKenzie Spradlin is the daughter of Kevin Spradlin, who wrote this report. Regardless, it’s news and would have been published on PeeDeePost.com regardless of whose child received the recognition. If you know of a student deserving similar recognition, send an email to peedeepost@gmail.com.

 

 

Filed in: Education, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Rockingham

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  • victoria smith

    Whoop ! Whoop ! We love Campbell University. One of the best schools in the country.

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