Most of the Top 10 students in Graham High School’s Class of 2022 got to graduate twice: once with their peers at Graham High School and also from Alamance Community College, after simultaneously earning associate’s degrees along with their high school diplomas.
Seven of the Top 10 students at Graham High earned associate’s degrees from ACC, and nine of the Top 10 students were also enrolled in the Pre-Collegiate Academy based at Graham High School.
The Pre-Collegiate Academy, which is based at Graham High School, enables students to take Honors, Advanced Placement (AP), and courses at ACC throughout all four years of high school, according to a description of the program from ABSS.
“Pre-Collegiate Academy (PCA) students who have been in the program are recognized at the end of their senior year with a certificate,” says Melissa Cook, who serves as the coordinator for the program at Graham High School. “Not all of them have completed their two-year associate’s degree from ACC; but all of them have completed some college credit.
The goal of PCA is for students in the program to have the resources and the guidance to complete a two-year associate’s degree from ACC upon graduation from high school. While not all PCA students will reach this goal, their hard work and commitment to the program and the coursework is what we wanted to recognize. Nine of our top ten GHS graduates were Pre-Collegiate Academy students.”
Overall, 19 students in Graham High School’s Class of 2022 received PCA certificates, Cook tells The Alamance News. A total of 11 seniors graduated with their first year of college credit completed, Cook adds. “This was the second PCA Cohort to graduate from the program,” she says. “We currently have 150 students in the program representing all of the ABSS high schools from 9th to 12th grade.”
Four of Graham High’s Top 10 students will be going off to college at the University of North Carolina this fall; two are heading to N.C. State University; and the remainder will be attending ACC, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, and Toccoa Falls College in Georgia.
Valedictorian Caydon White, 18, is the son of Scott White of Burlington. He earned his high school diploma, as well as an associate’s degree from Alamance Community College.
White is planning to attend UNC-Charlotte, for which he has received more than $200,000 in scholarships, including: $108,000 from Lenoir-Rhyne University; $108,000 from Missouri State University; $60,000, Arizona State University; $44,000, Chowan University; $44,000, High Point University; $40,000, UNC-Charlotte; $40,000, Radford University; $32,000, Indiana State University; and $18,000 from Gardner Webb-University.
White says his favorite class at Graham High School was psychology /criminal justice and his most memorable experience was the Covid-19 pandemic.
While at Graham High, he has been active in the National Honor Society and Key Club, in addition to volunteering with the food pantry at Blessed Sacrament Church.
Salutatorian Leslie Hughbanks, 18, is the daughter of Wayne and Tonia Hughbanks of Graham. Like the class valedictorian, Hughbanks also earned her high school diploma, as well as an associate’s degree from ACC.
Hughbanks plans to attend Toccoa Falls College in Georgia, to which she has been admitted as a junior, with plans to double-major in counseling psychology and youth ministry. She has received a total of $82,180 in scholarships from Toccoa Falls College. Hughbanks also received a Western Carolina Honors scholarship for $5,000, plus $106,000 in scholarships from Lenoir-Rhyne University to be spread over four years.
Hughbanks says her most memorable experience during high school was “sitting on top of the chem lab tables, rather than in the chairs, doing a puzzle, brain teasers, or even playing board games.” In addition to her studies, she worked at Chick-fil-A in Mebane and Shamrock Nutrition in Graham and participated in the Pre-Collegiate Academy and pep band at Graham High.
The other Top 10 students in Graham High School’s Class of 2022 are (in alphabetical order):
Susan Xitlali Cano Aguado, 17, is the daughter of Susana Aguado Vasquez and Rodrigo Cano Chavero of Burlington. She earned her high school diploma, as well as an associate’s degree from ACC, in addition to successfully completing the Pre-Collegiate Academy at Graham High.
Aguado plans to attend UNC-Greensboro and study Psychology or Nursing, for which she has received several scholarships and grants, including: a Chancellor’s Scholarship for $1,800; a Spartan Scholarship, $1,700; and a College Readiness grant for $1,200, as well as a campus housing grant.
Aguado recalls that her most memorable experience at Graham High School “was gym class during freshman year” and senior homecoming. Her extracurricular activities included: Student council, Key Club; International Club; yearbook committee; National Honor Society; and women’s tennis team.
Outside of school, Aguado volunteered with the food pantry at Blessed Sacrament Church; Dream Align Ministries (a food pantry in Graham); Mijente (a political organization that describes itself as having been created to address the lack of political organization among Latinos); and volunteered at a local elementary school and helped to promote Pre-Collegiate Academy at Graham High School.
Andrea Chavez, 18, is the daughter of Fabiola Chavez of Graham. She earned her high school diploma, as well as an associate’s degree from ACC, in addition to successfully completing the Pre-Collegiate Academy at Graham High.
Chavez plans to attend UNC-CH, for which she has received an Elon University Odyssey Scholarship for $60,000. She says her most memorable experience in high school was a special “recognition ceremony” for students who graduated from the Pre-Collegiate Academy (PCA). “Graham High provided me with the opportunity to be in the Pre-Collegiate Academy, and I highly encourage others to take advantage of this opportunity!” Chavez recalls. “Being in PCA opened many doors for me and I will forever be grateful!”
Her extracurricular activities at Graham included: participating in the Elon Academy (a program that mirrors the college experience and is targeted to academically-promising first-generation college students); student council; National Honor Society; the International and Key clubs; Blessed Sacrament food pantry; Dream Align Ministries; and playing on the women’s tennis team.
Annie Dang, 18, is the daughter of Duyen Dang of Graham. She also graduated from the Pre-Collegiate Academy.
Dang is planning to head this fall to N.C. State University, for which she has received several scholarships, including: a Turrentine Scholarship, $2,100; a Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Scholarship, $1,250; and a Gladys Outlaw Gallop Scholarship for $1,000.
Dang says art was her favorite class at Graham High, and her most memorable experience in high school was “singing on stage at our chorus concerts with my classmates.” She was a member of the art club; Treble Choir; Mixed Choir; and National Honor Society at Graham High School.
Elison Dominik, 17, is the son of Jessica Dominik of Burlington. In addition to earning a high school diploma, Dominik plans to finish an associate’s degree, already underway, at ACC.
Dominik says his most memorable experience at Graham High “was repeatedly getting lost on the Graham campus for the first week of [ninth] grade.”
Kayla Duran, 18, is the daughter of Silvia Navarrete of Burlington. She earned her high school diploma, as well as an associate’s degree from ACC.
This fall, Duran will head to Chapel Hill to attend the state’s flagship public university, for which she has received a need-based grant and a university grant from Carolina.
Duran says her most memorable experience at Graham High was “talking with the college adviser, applying to college and talking about our futures.” She was active in the National Honor Society; student council; Key Club; International Club; yearbook committee; and played on the women’s tennis team at Graham High.
Jonathan Ruiz Vazquez, 18, is the son of Nanci Vazquez Lara of Graham. Like many of his fellow Top 10 students, he also earned a high school diploma and an associate’s degree from ACC.
Vazquez will be the first in his family to attend college and plans to enroll this fall at N.C. State University, for which he has received: a $1,000 George Heckman Memorial Sportsmanship Scholarship; a $2,100 Turrentine Scholarship; and $23,000 in financial aid.
“My favorite class in high school would probably have to be [Advanced Placement, or AP] Human Geography,” Vazquez says, adding that his most memorable experience at Graham was “senior night for the men’s soccer team.”
Jason Southiphonh, 18, is the son of Manivanh Bounvilai of Graham. He also earned a high school diploma and an associate’s degree from ACC.
Southiphonh plans to attend UNC-CH, for which he has received numerous scholarships, including: $106,000 from Lenoir-Rhyne University; $88,000, Averett University; $18,000, Lynchburg University; $18,000, Wingate University; $15,000, Roanoke College; and $1,000 from Western Carolina University.
His most memorable experience at Graham High, says Southiphonh, was “random people joining my lunch table, which led to new friends being made every day.”
In addition to being a student in the Pre-Collegiate Academy, he played on the men’s tennis team; was a member of the National Honor Society and science club; and volunteered with Blessed Sacrament Church.
Jason Yi, 18, is the son of Byung Yi of Graham. In addition to his high school diploma, Yi earned certification for successfully completing the Pre-Collegiate Academy at Graham High School.
Yi is the fourth Top 10 student at Graham High who will be heading to Carolina this fall, for which he has received a full ride, worth $100,000, through the Carolina Covenant scholarship program, as well as a $5,000 Summer Study Abroad Fellowship.
Yi says his favorite class was Calculus II, which he took at ACC’s main campus in Graham, and his most memorable experience in high school was the Covid-19 pandemic.
His extracurricular activities included: participating in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Club at ACC and in the “First in Talent Pitch Event” at the North Carolina School of Science and Math, which is an annual competition in which teams from eight high schools collaborate to solve a problem or challenge for business. Yi also participated in the National Honor Society at Graham High; tutored students in math; worked on computer coding projects; and volunteered with various community organizations.