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Scholarships fuel two South Lenoir seniors' career plans

Two South Lenoir High School seniors who’ve known for a while what they want to do with their lives now know more about how they’re going to do it.

Two female high school senior pose in front of bulletin board decorated with college pennants. Michaela Elmore has been chosen for the selective Honors College at East Carolina University and will attend as a Chancellor’s Fellow, using the four years of tuition-free education to propel her drive to become a physician.

Classmate Avery Harper will attend North Carolina State University as an N.C. Teaching Fellow and winner of the merit-based program’s $33,000 in educational assistance.

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember,” Avery said, adding that she could say the same about wanting to earn a degree from N.C. State.

Selected as a finalist for the N.C. Teaching Fellows Program on the basis of her academic record and an application that included two essays, Avery interviewed last month with the selection committee. As practice, she’d already done two mock interviews with people from the program, where she fielded questions about her strengths and weaknesses.

A strength? “I’m hardworking. I put my mind to a goal and I work to it. Just like the Teaching Fellows. I’ve been working really hard on this,” she said.

The N.C. Teaching Fellows Program is designed “to recruit, prepare and support highly-qualified students” who are committed to teaching special education or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects in a North Carolina public school, according to the program’s website.

The program provides merit-based forgivable loans for service. Last year, 133 students statewide were named N.C. Teaching Fellows.

Avery plans to teach high school math, a career she’s sampled as a Math I tutor at South Lenoir. “I think of that kind of like student teaching because I’m getting in the classroom and helping other students,” she said of the peer-to-peer program.

An active member of the school FFA chapter, she is chapter president this year and the past two summers has competed as a vocalist at the FFA National Convention in Indianapolis. When she thinks of that competition – a “big stage” event she was reluctant to try – she thinks of how teachers have helped her.

“They encouraged me and they pushed me to do something I might not have been sure of. They kept my best interest in mind. Pushing myself out of that comfort zone, having teachers that helped me do that really meant a lot.”

The 17-year-old is the daughter of Craig and Michelle Harper.

Both Avery and Michaela have taken advantage of the dual enrollment program that allows LCPS students to earn transferable college credits from Lenoir Community College while in high school.

Avery expects to enter N.C. State as a second-semester sophomore. Michaela expects to earn an associate degree from LCC this spring and enter ECU as a junior – leaving two years of her scholarship for medical school if she stays at ECU.

“My mom is a nurse. I always saw what she was doing and I knew really young I wanted to go into the medical field,” Michaela said. “Young kids always have big dreams, but I really decided when I got to high school that I wasn’t dreaming. That’s what I wanted to do. I set my mind to it.”

At South Lenoir, part of her preparation has been through membership in HOSA, an international organization for students with interests in health-care careers. She is chapter vice president this year.

Accepted to ECU, she was invited to apply for Honors College and won admission based on her academic record, her application and college admission test score.

She remembered her acceptance letter waiting in the envelope on a table at home – and her parents waiting for her to come home and open it. “My dad was super excited,” she said.

She’s certain about majoring in “a field of science” and, after talking to college advisors, is leaning toward a double major in biochemistry and biology.

Michaela, 17, is the daughter of Christy and Terry Elmore.


South Lenoir High School seniors Michaela Elmore, left, and Avery Harper have both won scholarships that will further their career goals. Michaela, who plans to become a physician, has been accepted to Honors College at East Carolina University. Avery will attend N.C. State University as a North Carolina Teaching Fellow.