Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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SHS Top 10 students have lofty plans after graduation


The Top 10 students in the Class of 2021 at Southern High School are the epitome of well-rounded students: nine are athletes; seven are members of the Patriots’ acclaimed Future Farmers of America chapter; and virtually all of the top-ranking seniors in this year’s graduating class are volunteers with charitable and civic organizations in Alamance County.

Nine of the Top 10 students in Southern High School’s Class of 2021 are also members of the National Honor Society. Six of the Top 10 students graduated on June 4 as Advanced Placement (AP) Scholars, based on AP test scores that were above average and/or superior.

Valedictorian Hudson Tumey graduated as an AP Scholar with Distinction, receiving an average score of at least 3.5 (out of a maximum possible score of 5) on all of his AP exams, according to the high school.

All Top 10 students at Southern High School plan to attend college this fall. Valedictorian Tumey is Ivy League-bound: this fall, he will enroll in Cornell University.

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Three of the Top 10 students will head to Chapel Hill, to attend the state’s flagship university; and three are headed to the state capital, to attend N.C. State University. Rounding out the Top 10 students in the Class of 2021 are rising freshmen at the University of Florida; Davidson College; and student who plans to attend Alamance Community College before transferring to a four-year university.

Listed below, in alphabetical order, are Southern’s top graduates for 2021:

Lauren Cook, 18, is the daughter of Kelly and Jason Cook of Graham. She has received several scholarships and is planning to attend North Carolina State University to study biological sciences.

Lauren Cook

Cook’s extracurricular activities at Southern High School have included serving on the Link Crew, a program aimed at improving academic success for incoming freshmen; in multiple leadership roles on the student council; and as co-editor, editor-in-chief, and graphics editor for the yearbook staff. Cook has participated in the National Honor Society (and served as its co-president), in addition to running track and playing on the lady Patriots’ soccer team.

Cook has also volunteered with nonprofit organizations such as Unified Champions, a Special Olympics program; UNICEF; Junior Civitans; and she has participated in Relay for Life and the youth group at her church.

Developing leadership skills and making new friends have been among her most memorable experiences at Southern High School, Cook says.

Makayla Durham, 18, is the daughter of Craig and Sherry Durham of Burlington.

While she was offered sizeable scholarships to entice her to attend Elon University and Appalachian University, Durham will attend Carolina starting this fall.

Makayla Durham

During her four years as a Patriot, Durham has participated in the National Honor Society, Link Crew, and Unified Champions; volunteered with Habitat for Humanity; participated in the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life; and played for the girls’ varsity tennis team at Southern. “My favorite memories from high school are the fun bus rides back to the school and dinners after tennis matches,” Durham recalls.

Hunter Longest, 18, is the son of Travis and Jennifer Ely of Graham. A member of the FFA chapter, Hunter Safety Team, and National Honor Society, which he counts as his most memorable experience in high school, Longest says he plans to attend Alamance Community College and transfer to a four-year university within the UNC System.

Hunter Longest

Kyla McDonald, 17, is the daughter of Brian McDonald and Stacey Fisher of Graham. She is a rising freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill who plans to study biology, which also ranked as her favorite classes in high school.

During her time at Southern, McDonald has participated in the D.R.E.A.M. team, which stands for “Daring to Role Model Excellence as Athletic Mentors” and is a student organization that works to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs and alcohol among youth and in the community.

Kyla McDonald

McDonald has also served on the student council and as an FFA member/officer; and she has been a member of the swim team and cheerleading squad. Her most memorable experience as a Southern High School student was two years ago, when she was a sophomore and won the state agricultural sales (“Ag Sales”) championship, McDonald says.

Morgan Miller, 17, is the daughter of Carla Miller of Snow Camp. She has received three scholarships to attend N.C. State University.

Morgan Miller

Miller’s extracurricular activities in high school have included: Rotary Interact, a junior service league that is part of Rotary International; National Honor Society; the D.R.E.A.M. Team; and FFA. Miller has also played for the Patriots’ varsity women’s tennis team and served as manager for the men’s tennis team at Southern High School.

As she prepares to move on to college, Miller encourages her underclassmen at Southern High School to “explore your own interests and expand on them” to see where they might lead in life.

Lacy Mills, 17, is the daughter of Brad and Karen Mills of Graham. Like Miller, she also plans to head to N.C. State in the fall, where she plans to major in psychology. Mills has received two scholarships for college.

Lacy Mills

As a Patriot, Mills has participated in: FFA; student council; the D.R.E.A.M. Team; Link Crew; Unified Champions; and the National Honor Society, as well as playing on the girls’ basketball and tennis teams.

Mills points to Nicholas (“Nick”) Anders – her horticulture teacher and the longtime coach for the FFA chapter – and Christi Fitch, her environmental science teacher, as having a lasting impact on her education. Her most memorable experience, Mills says, was serving as an FFA officer and competing on the plant teams for the Patriots’ FFA chapter.

Class salutatorian Maddux Smith, 18, is the son of Jason and Stephanie Smith of Burlington. He has received two scholarships, a David Vaughn Scholarship and Colt Baseball Scholarship, to attend Davidson College and has committed to play baseball for the Wildcats.

Maddux Smith

In addition to playing baseball and basketball for the Patriots, Smith has participated in FFA; D.R.E.A.M. Team; Link Crew; and the National Honor Society, though he cites “beating Williams [High School] in baseball for the first time in many years” as one of his most formative experiences at Southern High School.

Macie Smith, 18, is the daughter of Shelby and Danny Smith of Graham. She plans to enroll at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this fall.

Macie Smith

Smith has been awarded multiple scholarships to attend Carolina, including from State Employees’ Credit Union; Bethany Presbyterian Church in Graham; and Elite Cruzers, a motorcycle club in Burlington that offers five annual scholarships to students in Alamance County who graduate with a GPA of 3.0 or better and have been accepted at an accredited two-or four-year college. (Smith graduated with a 4.56 GPA.)

As a student at Southern, Smith was inducted into the National Honor Society and National Honor Society for Dance Arts; attended Governor’s School, a five-week residential summer program for gifted high school students; and served on the student council. She was also a member of the Patriots’ Dance Team and Link Crew, a high school orientation and transition program aimed at boosting academic success for incoming freshmen. Smith also participated in Relay for Life, an annual charity walk/run that raises money for cancer research and prevention.

Smith says that her dance teacher, Amber Peeden, has been her favorite teacher in high school, adding that the field trips she took with the dance company were among her most memorable experiences at Southern High School.


Natalie Teague, 18, is the daughter of Brandy and Clay Teague of Snow Camp.

Natalie Teague

Teague will head to Gainesville, Florida this fall to attend the University of Florida, for which she has received five scholarships (Sylvan Ruritan Club; Golden Leaf Foundation; two University of Florida scholarships; and an academic merit scholarship). She plans to major in Biology on a pre-med track to pursue a career as an anesthesiologist.

Teague credits God, her parents, and her brother with giving her the love and support she needed to set and achieve her goals in school and life so far. “I would not be where I am without each of [them],” she exclaims.

Teague has been a member of the Patriots’ softball, volleyball, and swim teams. She has also participated in the National Honor Society; the Patriots’ FFA chapter; the “Link Crew,” a program that mentors rising high school freshmen, in hopes of boosting their chances for academic success; served on the student council; and led the pep club for the “Southern Psychos,” the high school’s version of the “Cameron Crazies” at Duke University. Her most memorable experience has been participating in homecoming during all four years at Southern High School, Teague says.

Graduating at the top of his class is Hudson Tumey, 18, the son of Robert and Maureen Tumey of Haw River. He has received scholarships to attend Cornell University from the Alamance County Farm Bureau and a Charles and Joanne Carden Scholarship.

In addition to graduating as an AP Scholar with Distinction, the 6’1″ class valedictorian has played for the Patriots’ men’s varsity soccer and basketball teams and participated in FFA and National Honor Society.

Hudson Tumey

Two years ago, Tumey also helped Southern High School’s FFA chapter win second in the nation at a national career development competition in Floriculture, requiring high school students to demonstrate skills in floral and foliage propagation and related skills. For his part, Tumey placed 26th in the nation; his three Floriculture teammates placed 4th, 6th, and 18th in the nation, according to Southern High School.

In addition to his other accolades, Tumey was named the 2020-21 boys’ soccer player of the year for the Mid-Piedmont conference earlier this month. He led the boys’ soccer team to win in an initial round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) 3A state playoffs this spring, though the Patriots ultimately failed to clinch the title.

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