With myriad school club memberships, volunteer hours, and wide-ranging interests abounding, Williams High School’s top 10 graduates for 2021 made for a well-rounded, busy bunch.
Among the accomplishments of Williams’ top students are spots in various national honors societies, sports teams, and service-oriented clubs, as well as interests in the arts and intellectual competitions.
Each of the 10 students plans to attend college this fall, with the majority going off to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University. The remaining four will be attending the University of Richmond, Davidson College, North Carolina State University, and Campbell University.
Heading up the high-ranking cohort is valedictorian Brooke Gainey, who will be attending the University of Richmond this fall. Salutatorian Sheidy Rios-Vazquez will be studying in Chapel Hill as a Morehead-Cain scholar, one of the state’s most prestigious scholarship designations.
Listed below, in alphabetical order, are Williams’ top graduates for 2021:
Aubrey Carson, 17, is the daughter of Devon and Heather Carson of Burlington. The recipient of several scholarships, Carson is headed to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill this fall to study sports and exercise science.
Carson’s extracurricular activities during her high school career were Link Crew, Burlington Junior Civitans, National Honors Society, Spanish Honors Society, English Honors Society, Math Honors Society, and serving as captain for both the women’s cross country and soccer teams.
In addition to enjoying pre-calculus during her junior year, the graduate cherished the bonds she made with her fellow athletes on the cross country and soccer teams. Passing along advice to students to proceed her, and perhaps even to adults, she says, “Don’t regret anything, you only live once!”
Brooke Gainey, 18, is the daughter of Howard and Christine Gainey of Burlington and will be attending the University of Richmond this fall.
Gainey’s extracurricular activities at Williams were volunteering with CrossRoads, Junior Civitans, serving as treasurer for both the student body and the Key Club, and playing varsity soccer.
Gainey pointed to Stuart Ringwalt’s Theory of Knowledge class as her favorite and considers her experiences on the school’s soccer team for four years to have been the most memorable part of her high school years.
Will Gardner, 18, is the son of Steve and Suzi Gardner of Mebane. With a band scholarship in hand, Gardner will be attending Wake Forest University this fall.
Gardner’s extracurricular activities during his time at Williams were marching band, National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, Latin Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Debate Club, and the tennis team.
The graduate considers Robin Farber’s Latin class to have been his favorite, and, credits being in the stands as Williams defeated rival team Western High School during his junior year as the most memorable experience of his high school years.
Pondering his growth from his first year at the high school to the last, he concludes, “Walking into Williams was the scariest thing I’ve done. Walking away is the saddest. Thanks to the friends along the way.”
Edward Garrett Hauk, 17, is the son of Grant and Heather Hauk of Burlington. With two scholarships to help him along, Hauk will be attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill this fall to study finance.
Hauk’s myriad extracurricular activities and honors during his time at Williams were all-conference golf, all-conference lacrosse, serving as president of the Academy of Finance, being named CTE Student of the Year, receiving the Fred Miller Model Athlete Award, and being involved in the National Society of High School Scholars, National English Honors Society, National Technical Honors Society, National Spanish Honors Society, Mu Alpha Theta Honors Society, First Presbyterian Church Youth Group, and Appalachia Service Project.
Hauk considers Williams’ Theory of Knowledge class to have been his favorite, and cherishes the memory of qualifying for three state championship golf tournaments.
Mary Hunter Hite, 18, is the daughter of Chris and Lisa Hite of Elon and will be attending Wake Forest University this fall.
Hite’s numerous extracurricular activities while at Williams were National Honor Society, National Math Honor Society, National Latin Honor Society, National English Honor Society, serving as student body vice president, Key Club, Junior Civitans, Bulldogs United, Mu Alpha Theta, being founder of the Crafting for Community Club, and serving as a RYT 200 yoga teacher.
Hite named DaleAnna Cryan’s IB Biology class as her favorite, and pointed to the boys soccer team state championship win as her most memorable experience at Williams.
Katherine Katsoudas, 17, is the daughter of George and Christine Katsoudas of Burlington. With the help of the Burlington Civitan Scholarship, Katsoudas will be attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill this fall.
Katsoudas’ many extracurricular activities were National Honor Society, serving as president of the National Technical Honor Society, National Art Society, serving as co-president of the National Spanish Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, student council, serving as student body secretary, JV and varsity cheerleading, Junior Civitans, Spanish Club, Key Club, Bulldogs United, Crafting for the Community Club, and serving as a Sunday School assistant at St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church.
Tying for her favorite teacher and class were Lydia Allen’s AP Calculus and Greg Hamer’s Honors Biology. The graduate considers cheerleading alongside her sister in Chapel Hill’s Dean Smith Center at the 2019 men’s basketball state championship game to be her most cherished experience at Williams.
Kassidy Aary Liggins, 18, is the daughter of Aaron and Mary Liggins of Burlington. Having been awarded three different scholarships to attend a trio of institutions this fall, Liggins will be attending Davidson College – the graduate intends to major in either physics or biology – with the assistance of the James B. Duke Scholarship.
Liggins’ numerous extracurricular activities were serving as secretary of both Mu Alpha Theta and the Spanish Honor Society, English Honor Society, National Honor Society, serving as president of Key Club, being founder and president of Williams’ Go Green Club, being a varsity member of Williams High School Science Olympiad, student council, and Bulldogs United.
The graduate also volunteered with Carolina Cross Connection and the North Carolina Democratic Party. Apart from the clubs and volunteer activities, she enjoys meeting new people, spending time with family, and kayaking.
Liggins named Robert Alvis’ IB History of the Americas as her favorite class and considers seeing Williams win 2019’s 3A state soccer championship as the most memorable experience during high school.
Logan Martyn, 17, is the son of Steve and Amanda Martyn of Burlington. While he received scholarships, Martyn didn’t accept the funds; he will be attending North Carolina State University this fall to study applied mathematics.
Martyn’s extracurricular activities while at Williams were competing in Ocean Bowl; performing in orchestra and chamber orchestra, including two all-county concerts; and being a member of Mu Alpha Theta.
Aligning with his future field of study, Martyn considers calculus with Lydia Allen to have been his favorite class. His most memorable experience resulted from the Ocean Bowl competition, which allowed him and his teammates to enjoy the Outer Banks.
Sheidy Rios-Vazquez, 18, is the daughter of Emelia Vazquez Puebla of Whitsett. Having been awarded the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship, Rios-Vazquez will be attending the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill this fall. While there, she plans to work toward her ideal of health equity by pursuing a medical career to help marginalized groups in the healthcare system.
Rios-Vazquez’s myriad extracurricular activities at Williams were serving as student body president, captain of the cheerleading team from 2017 to 2020, vice president of Mu Alpha Theta, and secretary of Go Green Club; attending Elon Academy as a Nu scholar; volunteering with Young Musicians of Alamance; founding the Crafting for Community Club; serving as assistant manager of Smitty’s Homemade Ice Cream; and being a member of the National Honor Society, National Latin Honor Society, National English Honor Society, Link Crew, Key Club, and Junior Civitans.
Rios-Vazquez named AP Calculus with Lydia Allen as her favorite class and points to cheerleading alongside her teammates when Williams defeated rival Western High School in football as her most cherished high school experience.
Elijah Wells, 18, is the son of Paul and Deborah Wells of Burlington. With two scholarships, Wells plans to attend Campbell University this fall.
Wells’ interests include tennis – the graduate played on the varsity men’s tennis team for his entire high school career – painting, playing violin, and baking, the latter of which he terms “the superior form of procrastination.” He was a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, and Mu Alpha Theta.
Wells points to a tie in his favorite class during his time at Williams, naming both art with Elizabeth Wooten and orchestra with Lydia Allen.
“I found what I was doing to be entertaining, and enjoyed being surrounded by my peers who have similar passions,” he says.
The graduate’s most memorable high school experience is one shared by students the world over: what he terms “the extremely long school lockdown” that took place during his and his classmates’ junior year.