Several Western Alamance High School’s top graduates may be running into familiar faces on their college campuses this fall as the majority of the group heads off to two of the state’s top universities.
Out of the 11 students who tied for the school’s “top 10” designation this year, all but three will be attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill or North Carolina State University. The remaining trio of graduates will be attending UNC-Charlotte, Virginia Tech, and Philadelphia’s Drexel University.
Aside from having shared memberships in many of Western’s service-oriented clubs, many of this year’s students also found common ground in naming their favorite teacher, with five of the graduates naming long-time science instructor David Vernon.
Burke King was designated as valedictorian, while Savannah Berntson was named salutatorian.
The top eleven graduates for Western’s 2021 class are, listed alphabetically:
Alyssa Barnhardt, 18, is the daughter of Brandon and Jennifer Barnhardt of Gibsonville. With three scholarships to assist her, the graduate will be attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill this fall to embark on a pre-med track.
During her time at Western, Barnhardt played varsity soccer and golf; served as student body vice president, secretary of Key Club, and a freshman orientation guide; and was a member of National Honor Society, Interact Club, Kids Helping Wish Kids, and Lead the Way as its founder and facilitator.
Barnhardt points to AP psychology as her favorite class, and Sean Quinn as her favorite teacher. The most memorable experience of her high school years, she says, was defeating rival Eastern Alamance High School in soccer at her senior night game.
Referring to her personal philosophy, she says, “I try to live my life with no regrets, because everything that’s happened has led me to where I am today.”
Savannah Berntson, 18, is the daughter of Paige Berntson Gilliard and stepdaughter of Keith Gilliard of Burlington. With assistance from the Belk Scholarship, Berntson will be attending the University of North Carolina-Charlotte this fall to pursue both a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in data science and business analytics.
While at Western, the graduate served as president for both the Interact Club and National Honor Society, an executive board member on the student council, and captain of the varsity volleyball team; Berntson was also a member of other, unspecified clubs.
Berntson considers AP statistics with Elizabeth Danieley to have been her favorite class and initiating after-school pick-up volleyball games at Elon University to have been her most cherished high school experience.
“High school has been amazing,” she says, “but it wouldn’t have been the same without the amazing people I’ve met along the way.”
Darryl Dix, 18, is the son of Darryl and Tracey Dix of Burlington. The recipient of $15,500 in grants and scholarships from two sources, Dix will be attending North Carolina State University this fall.
During his time at Western, Dix was on both the cross-country and track and field teams and was a member of the National Honor Society, Future Farmers of America, and the science club. The graduate – who describes himself as hard-working, intelligent, responsible, and prudent – also holds a part-time job with his father’s lawn maintenance business, Quality Maintenance Service, and is writing a fantasy novel.
While Dix says that he enjoyed all of his teachers, he points to Tom Gray, whom he had for Spanish I and II, as his favorite. The graduate considers his most memorable high school experiences to have been having pasta dinners with his cross-country teammates on the eve of meets during his sophomore and junior years.
Jack Dockrill, 18, is the son of Chris and Terry Dockrill of Elon. With two scholarships to assist him, the graduate will be attending Virginia Tech this fall to study electrical engineering.
During his time at Western, Dockrill enjoyed hiking, golfing, and playing various pick-up sports and was a member of Go Green, science club, and National Honor Society.
The graduate considers David Vernon, with whom he took physics and chemistry, to have been his favorite teacher. Referring to Vernon, Dockrill says that his most memorable high school experiences were going on hiking trips to Hanging Rock State Park with the science club led by the teacher.
“I’m thankful for the experiences I had at Western Alamance and hope to translate my time in high school to future success in college and beyond,” he says.
William Geiger, 18, is the son of Tim and Lelia Geiger of Burlington. With the assistance of the Turrentine scholarship, the graduate will be attending North Carolina State University this fall to pursue exploratory studies.
While at Western, Geiger was on the varsity tennis and swim teams and a member of the National Honor Society and Young Life.
Geiger pointed to David Vernon’s chemistry class as his favorite and counts hiking trips to Hanging Rock State Park with the science club as his most memorable high school experience.
Cate Harris, 18, is the daughter of Shannon and Susan Harris of Burlington. The recipient of two scholarships, she will be attending North Carolina State University this fall to study sustainable materials and technology.
During her time at Western, the graduate played varsity volleyball and was president of the Kids Helping Wish Kids Club, which collected over $30,000 for the Make-A-Wish foundation during her high school career – an achievement that she considers the highlight of her experience at Western. Harris was also a member of the Western Alamance Dance Marathon, another fundraising club that supports the Duke Children’s Hospital.
Additionally, the graduate was a member of Interact Club, National Honor Society, Go Green, and DREAM Team as well as a freshman orientation guide.
Harris considers AP chemistry with David Vernon to have been her favorite class.
Burke King, 18, is the son of Kevin and Paula King of Elon. With the assistance of several scholarships, he will be attending North Carolina State University this fall to study applied mathematics with a financial concentration.
While at Western, King was a member of National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Key Club, student council, WA Cappella, and marching band and served as president for both the ping-pong and Burlington baseball booster clubs.
The graduate points to AP physics with David Vernon as his favorite class and the War Games competition that his sophomore class won during the 2018-19 school year as his most memorable experience at Western.
Passing along insight that he gathered during his four years, King says, “No matter how smart you are, working hard and doing your best will always be the key to success.”
Elizabeth McDevitt, 17, is the daughter of David and Roberta McDevitt of Burlington.
Having received three scholarships, she will be attending Drexel University to study chemical engineering and compete on the school’s varsity swim team.
During her time at Western, McDevitt was a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, and the varsity swim team.
The graduate considers AP chemistry with David Vernon to have been her favorite class and points to medaling at the high school swimming state competition in the 200-yard freestyle swim during her junior year to have been her most memorable experience.
Nora Grace McKenzie, 18, is the daughter of Lynne and Dana McKenzie of Elon. The recipient of several scholarships, she will be attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill this fall to study psychology.
While at Western, McKenzie served as student body president and was a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Interact Club, Key Club, Kids Helping Wish Kids Club, and the Western Alamance Dance Marathon.
The graduate considers AP US, AP comparative government and politics to have been her favorite classes and Sean Quinn, Paul Calannio, and April Williams to have been her favorite teachers. She points to traveling the United States with her cross-country team during summer 2019 with Teens Westward Bound as her most cherished high school experience.
Lydia Stucker, 18, is the daughter of Todd and Shannon Stucker of Burlington. With assistance from the Turrentine scholarship, she will be attending North Carolina State University this fall.
During her time at Western, Stucker played soccer, basketball, tennis, and cross-country. She was also a member of the Kids Helping Wish Kids Club, DREAM Team, Interact, National Honor Society, and Lakeview Community Church’s youth group.
The graduate considers sociology with Elon professor Bernard Curry to have been her favorite class and watching Western win the football conference championship at Northern Guilford High School – a game which ended well after midnight due to a rain delay – to have been her most memorable experience.
Looking forward, she says, “I can’t wait to see what path God leads me to follow over the next few years.”
Carson Swain, 18, is the son of Barry and Ginger Swain of Burlington. As the recipient of two scholarships, he will be attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill this fall on a pre-med track.
While at Western, Swain served as president of Key Club and senior administrator for student council and was a member of Interact Club, National Honor Society, and Spanish Honor Society.
The graduate pointed to AP calculus with Elizabeth Danieley as having been his favorite class and cherishes memories of going to football games in themed attire and having late-night dinners out with his friends afterwards.
Pondering his high school experience, he concludes, “The biggest thing I learned from high school was you can have your cake and eat it too.”
Read other coverage about top 2021 graduates at other local high schools: