Monday, April 15, 2024

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Many of Western High School’s Top 10 students on track for careers in science and medicine


Several of Western Alamance High School’s Top 10 graduates in the Class of 2022 may see some familiar faces when they head off to college this fall.

Out of those who ranked in the Top 10 for their graduating class this year, three will be attending North Carolina State University; two will be attending UNC-Chapel Hill; two will be attending Elon University; two will be attending Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia; and the remaining Top 10 student is heading to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

In addition to earning thousands of dollars in scholarships for college, this year’s Top 10 students also found common ground in their apparent aptitude for science, with at least half of the top-ranking graduates apparently on track for science and/or biomedical careers.

Western’s Top 10 students also seemed to share a desire to help others, based on their participation in service organizations and charitable organizations such as the Kids Helping Kids Wish Club, a subsidiary of the Make-A-Wish foundation that raises money for children facing critical illness.

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Valedictorian Hayden Ni, 17, is the daughter of Qiang and Huong Ni of Elon. She will head to the state capital this fall to attend North Carolina State University, where she plans to major in Chemical Engineering.

Valedictorian Hayden Ni

Ni recalls that her favorite classes at Western were: Advanced Placement (AP) environmental science; AP biology and chemistry; and AP government and politics. “These classes challenged me in the best way possible and were so much fun,” the Class of 2022 valedictorian elaborates.

Ni says her senior prom was her favorite experience in high school. “Getting to dress up and have fun with all my friends was a blast,” she tells The Alamance News. “It was like our last hurrah before we graduate – from [taking] pictures in the rain to staying up all night after, I will never forget the great memories we made.”

Ni’s extracurricular activities included: National Honor Society; student council; the Interact Club; Kids Helping Wish Kids, Warrior Buddies, a program that promotes positive friendships with students in the Exceptional Children’s program at Western; and serving as a freshman orientation guide.

Salutatorian Brooklyn Noelle Porter, 18, is the daughter of David and Lawanda Porter of Burlington.

Salutatorian Brooklyn Noelle Porter

Like the valedictorian Ni, Porter also plans to head to N.C. State this fall and participate in the exploratory studies program, which allows incoming freshmen to explore their options to find a “best fit” major, according to the university.

Porter has received multiple scholarships for college, including: an Elite Cruzers scholarship for $1,000; an Appalachian Excellence Scholarship, $4,000; a Turrentine Scholarship from N.C. State for $8,400; and an N.C. Education Lottery Scholarship for $7,728.

She says her favorite classes at Western were AP chemistry; earth and environmental science; and human geography. Porter recalls that her most memorable experience in high school was being an orientation guide for incoming freshmen and “getting them excited about” attending Western.

Her extracurricular activities included: the cross country and swim teams; Interact Club, a service organization sponsored by the Rotary Club of Alamance County; student council; the National Honor Society and Spanish Honors Society; Warrior Buddies; Kids Helping Wish Kids Club; and Young Life, which is a Christian ministry for middle, high, and college students.

The other Top 10 students in Western High School’s Class of 2022 are (in alphabetical order):

Jake Walker Clayton, 18, is the son of Jay and Cynthia Clayton of Burlington. He will head to the state’s flagship public university in Chapel Hill this fall, where he plans to study economics and finance, for which he has received a Steven C. Walker Scholarship for $1,000.

Jake Walker Clayton

Walker says his favorite classes at Western were math and psychology and his most memorable experience in high school was winning the regional team championship in golf. His other extracurricular activities, in addition to playing on Western’s golf team, included participating in the National Honors Society and serving as the co-president for D.R.E.A.M. Team, an organization that works to create awareness about the dangers of drug, alcohol, and tobacco and provides athletic mentors for area youth.

Diego G. Hernandez, 17, is the son of Carolina and Walter Hernandez of Burlington.
Hernandez has received multiple scholarships to attend Elon University, including:
An Elon University Presidential Scholarship, $30,000; an Elon University grant, $56,400; an Elon Honors Fellows scholarship, $54,000; a James Bagwell Endowed Scholarship for $12,000; an N.C. State University Academic Enhancement grant, $1,600; and a Turrentine Scholarship for $8,400.

Diego G. Hernandez

Hernandez says calculus was his favorite class at Western, and his most memorable experience was the last day of school during his junior year. “Our calculus club was playing [a game called] Presidents,” he recalls. “We were all just having a good time.”

His extracurricular activities included participating in the science club at Western High School and in the youth group and Bible study at his church.

Rebecca Hooper, 18, is the daughter of Chad and Jennifer Hooper of Burlington. In addition to earning her high school diploma, Hooper also completed an associate’s degree while in high school. She is planning to attend Liberty University, where she hopes to major in industrial systems and engineering.

Rebecca Hooper

Hooper says that Sean Quinn’s AP psychology class was her favorite in high school. (Quinn also teaches AP government, civics, and economics, in addition to serving as the faculty advisor for the Interact and Kids Helping Wish Kids clubs at Western.)

Hooper says her most memorable experience in high school was “representing my class on homecoming court three years in a row.” She was a member of Western’s dance team; served as president of the National Honor Society and vice president of the student body; and participated in the Interact Club.

Natalie Briggs Peeples, 18, is the daughter of Margaret and Tim Peeples of Elon. She plans to attend Elon University as an Honors Fellow, for which she has received nearly $500,000 in scholarships, including: a College Scholar Award through the College of Wooster, $152,000; a Tuition Exchange Scholarship, $168,000; a Denison University Alumni Scholarship, $104,000; an Elon University Honors Fellows Program scholarship, $54,000, and a Global Study grant for $4,000.

Natalie Briggs Peeples

Peeples says that AP psychology and AP research were here favorite classes at Western and that her most memorable experience was “when I got to be a freshman orientation leader and help introduce new students to WAHS!” Her extracurricular activities included the Interact and Go Green clubs.

Kelsey Lynn Pereira, 18, is the daughter of Jeff and Edie Pereira of Elon. She plans on attending the University of Tennessee and majoring in biomedical engineering.

Kelsey Lynn Pereira

Pereira has received numerous scholarships to attend UT, including: a University of Tennessee at Knoxville Volunteer Scholarship, $60,000; an Appalachian State University Excellence Scholarship $8,000; an Auburn University Academic Charter Scholarship, $44,000; and a Clemson University Scholarship, $18,000.

Like several of her fellow Top 10 students, Pereira points to AP psychology, AP biology, and AP U.S. government and politics as her favorite classes at Western.

As for her most memorable experiences, Pereira says that “helping out with Christmas Cheer,” a nonprofit organization that raises money and collects gifts for needy people in Alamance County, was especially rewarding. “The Western community was able to come together to support the larger community around us,” Pereira explains.

Her extracurricular activities included: Cross Country team; student council; National Honor Society; Interact Club; the D.R.E.A.M. Team; Kids Helping Wish Kids Club; and Younglife, a service organization for high school students.

Julian Andres Perez Velasquez, 18, is the son of Christopher Perez and Gisella Velasquez of Elon.

Julian Andres Perez Velasquez

Perez Velasquez will head to Raleigh this fall to attend N.C. State University, where he plans to major in biomedical engineering, for which he has received a $12,000 James Bagwell Endowment Scholarship. He jokes that “lunch” was his favorite class in high school, and his most memorable experience was “winning the soccer state championship my senior year.”

In addition to playing on the varsity soccer team, his extracurricular activities at Western included: playing in the wind and percussion ensemble; lifeguarding; National Honor Society; and Interact Club; Wind & Percussion Ensemble, Lifeguarding, and National Honor Society.

Addison Lenee Wolfe, 18, is the daughter of Cherese Wolfe of Gibsonville. She plans to attend Liberty University to major in biomedical science and global studies.

Addison Lenee Wolfe

Wolfe has received numerous scholarships to help cover her costs for college, including: a Liberty University Academic Scholarship, $30,000; Middle America Scholarship for $23,584; an Early Deposit award, $8,000; a Liberty Champion Award, $4,000; and an Evelyn Apple and Stacy Wood Scholarship for $1,700.

Among her favorite classes at Western were AP psychology, AP biology, AP calculus, Wolfe recalls, and her most memorable experience was volunteering with Special Olympics. Outside of class, she was active in the Spanish Honor Society at Western.

Corinna Kathleen Workman, 18, is the daughter of Michael and Tracy Workman. She plans to attend Carolina this fall.

Corinna Kathleen Workman

Workman says theater was her favorite classes at Western were AP biology, calculus and theater. Her favorite experience in high school, Workman recalls, was when “me and my best friend Reese would sit in my car before school and talk. We called it the ‘Reese and Rinna Morning Show,’ even though it wasn’t real,” she adds with a laugh.

Read about plans and accomplishments of other top graduating seniors at other ABSS high schools:




Top grads from Cummings and Graham high schools will be featured in future weeks.

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