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HEATHER CREW: VALEDICTORIAN

Heather Crew, a very impressive student, has taken 13 AP classes spanning the four years she has been at Leesville. Graduating with a GPA of 5.32, Crew has been working for the title of valedictorian since the beginning high school. Her freshman year was the first year Leesville allowed underclassmen to participate in AP classes, and Crew took advantage of these opportunities, giving herself a head start on the building her GPA.

Due to her ambition, determination and work ethic in the classroom since freshman year, Heather has been named this 2015-2016 school year’s valedictorian.

“Since middle school, you could have guessed that she would be valedictorian because she always worked hard, had the grades and never slacked on anything,” said Zach Walker, a close friend to Crew. “I think [people need to know] that just because she is valedictorian, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t do other stuff; she is very involved in clubs.”

She has a sense of pride in what she does and enjoys helping others. Crew and a group of other students her sophomore year put their heads together to change the dynamic of the already existing Model UN club. Before the group intervened, meetings were rarely held, and the students didn’t take the club seriously. They made it respectable and competitive. Crew would later become president her junior year and also became president of the political club.

With graduation approaching, Crew has taken the limited time to reflect on her past and current classes. “I really like AP Spanish because anyone who has taken that class knows how magical it is. It seems cheesy but, the familia dynamic of the class actually does work. It is more than a class — it is an emotional support network,” said Crew. AP Spanish is difficult but a more enjoyable class compared to AP chemistry.

AP chemistry was completely different than the regular honors class she took her sophomore year. “I took AP chem because I really liked honors chemistry, and I thought I really clicked and gelled with the material,” said Crew. AP chemistry turned out to be not what she expecting, becoming her hardest class. It was very interesting but difficult for Crew, in the end, it was a rewarding experience.

Unlike most students, Crew has entered the college life early by taking courses at NC State to help with her transition in the fall. “I took a class on Spanish journalism [last semester] and am taking one right now on Spanish media,” said Crew. “It’s probably helping me transition better especially because the classroom format is so different. I feel like I would have felt like a fish out of water if I hadn’t spent the two semesters at NC State.”

In the fall, Heather Crew will be attending UNC Chapel Hill. “There is a cliche they say at all their college tours, but they really are an elite school without being elitists. I really hate the elitist mindset and attitude around every single Ivy League that I have ever been too and that is kinda encompassed by Duke too. I like the general attitude on campus [at UNC],” said Crew.

Before heading off to college, Heather Crew will be taking on Europe twice this summer. In June, Crew will travel to London for a week through the honors college at UNC and again in August with a school sponsored trip to London, Paris and Madrid. These opportunities give Crew a chance to wrap up high school by ending her journey with friends and memories that will last her a lifetime. “Overall I’m just really excited to graduate academically in June and graduate socially in August,” said Crew.    link to top

WILL KELLY: SALUTATORIAN
Sitting in class, Will Kelly seems calm, cool and collected. When one is made aware of his 5.29 GPA, however, it is apparent there is much more under the surface. Having packed 14 Advanced Placement (AP) classes into his four years at Leesville, Kelly felt it was only natural to use his academic talent in classes that both interested and challenged him. Despite the inevitable strain and stress of a full course load, Kelly persevered, earning all A’s in his classes, which, if you ask him, is what he is proudest of.

If his intellectual prowess is not impressive enough, Will Kelly also played junior varsity and varsity soccer for three years, became president of Future Business Leaders of America club, took part in National Honor Society and National Spanish Honor Society, and still made time for other miscellaneous activities.

It is hard to imagine a student like Kelly would have any regrets, but nevertheless, he has one: “not doubling up on math in freshman year, so I could take Calculus sophomore year. Because in [my] junior year when I was taking it, I had a whole bunch of other…year-long courses, and a bunch of other hard [undertakings].”

Fortunately, since school isn’t the only aspect of Will Kelly’s focus, there have been plenty of opportunities to relieve stress from overwhelming classes. The main ways he spends his free time: “going to the gym, lifting weights…hanging out with friends, playing recreational sports, playing [school] sports, just hanging out [and] watching movies with my friends.”

In the end, while Kelly projects a sense of self-sufficiency, he credits his peers for offering the biggest source of support through high school. “Fellow students, in my grade and the grade above…who took the same courses [with me], pushed me to do my best,” said Kelly.

All of the hard work has paid off; Will Kelly will be attending NC State in the fall. It was a fairly easy decision based on his interests. “They have a really good Applied Math program–it’s like fourteenth in the country–and that’s what I am trying to do [in the future]. So I found a specific major that I liked, which is Applied Math with a concentration in Financial Mathematics, [and] I just looked at the course layout of the whole major and it seemed pretty interesting,” said Kelly.

While he is pretty certain as to what major he would like to pursue, the resulting career path is less clear.

“I’m not really certain [what I want to do] yet. There [are] a lot of different careers you can go into, whether it be actuarial or in the financial investment industry. But, there [are] also a lot of good Graduate programs that you could go into from there in Business or Economics,” said Kelly.

While looking to the future, Kelly also analyzed his past high school experiences and had a few words of wisdom to share with those remaining at Leesville. “Basically, just be realistic with yourself as to what your academic goals are, and then don’t ever let someone tell you you shouldn’t take a class that you want to take. And don’t just take a class to get a high GPA, take classes that you are interested in, and just do your best in them,” said Kelly. link to top

TANASIA FUTRELL
For many, the idea that a school can have such a positive impact on you or that a high school can mean so much to you seems profound. At this point, we all are pretty ready to leave, with little to no attachment to the school. But Tanasia Futrell appreciation for Leesville comes from several years of struggling to find a place where she can feel safe and welcomed.

Futrell moved to North Carolina from New York during her freshman year of high school. She attended Farmville Central High School before moving to Raleigh and attending Millbrook High School for her sophomore year. But she became involved with the wrong crowd and started developing unhealthy relationships.

I was the new girl, so I didn’t know anyone [and] I started to meet people and just find my way. But I bumped into the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Futrell.

In response, her mother decided to transfer Futrell to Sanderson in hopes of providing her with a healthy social situation, little did she know what conflict would ensue at Sanderson High School.

“My mom moved me to a different school just like any mother would to protect her child from any harm or hurt. I transferred to Sanderson in the middle of sophomore year, and it was the worst experience of my life. That school has tremendously affected my life,” said Futrell.  

Futrell faced severe bullying from some girls at Sanderson. Some bullying turned in physical fights which resulted in Futrell being suspended from school. But Futrell knew that her treatment was unfair and fought back. In court, facing the threat of juvenile charges, Futrell was relieved to hear that the district attorney was dropping the charges against her.

Ready to open a new chapter of her life, Futrell transferred for the third and final time to Leesville.  And her appreciation for the school and its people is genuine.
“Leesville means a lot to me because […] I had a lot of failures before I reached a point of coming here for two years. Being here, it motivated me to get two jobs. I’m eighteen now, I’m working, I’m graduating, passing, and then I’m able to go to the teachers, talk to them, let them know when I need help. I’m able to go to the principle — he understands me so… yeah, Leesville means a lot to me,” said Futrell. link to top

MATT CROSS
Down. Set. Hike! When Matt Cross entered high school, it was a time surrounded with nervous anticipation for what lay ahead. However, four years later, Cross has developed into the senior he envisioned, and has had a high school experience centered around the sport he loves: football.

During his time at Leesville, Cross has made a promising commitment to the Pride Football program. In spite of the dedication, the work was well worth the reward, “It was a lot of commitment and a lot of sacrifices, but in the long run it was definitely a pay off. I made a lot of friends because of the team, and that really helped me through high school,” said Cross, with satisfaction.  

Over his three years on the varsity team, Cross played for three different head coaches. Though it didn’t affect him as a player, he feels the morale of the team was at times in the balance. “[Although] it didn’t affect me as a player, it affected the team. There were rough times and there were good times, but I think it brought us closer together and made us rely on ourselves,” said Cross.

However, Cross didn’t allow the complicated coaching situation to hinder his goal to be the best, “You have to work all the time. People only think about the time that you’re putting in on the practice field, but it’s time in the weight room, time at home, eating what you need to be eating, drinking enough water, and doing all the stuff that you need to be doing to make yourself a better athlete.”

Cross also translates his good work ethic and drive while in the classroom. He understands the importance and privilege of being a student-athlete: “It’s always school first because you’re a student-athlete. If you don’t do good in school, then you can’t play football.”

Cross is now committed to play football at Randolph Macon College in Virginia, and has turned his dream of playing college football into a reality.  

With just weeks of high school remaining, Cross reminisces on his football experience. “ It was a great experience. I would have to thank the coaches and everybody who has put in the work and time to make the football program really good and actually care about the program.”

The high school ‘veteran’ has one piece of advice to give to anyone in high school: “Just be you. Have a goal and work to achieve it and don’t let anything stop you from achieving it.”   link to top

NATHAN MARCELLINO
When Nathan Marcellino, senior, picked up his first paint brush at age 11, he never could have imagined his work would be featured among other prestigious pieces in the United States Capitol Building.

Marcellino’s art was selected by Representative George Holding to represent all of District 13 in the Congressional Art Competition. One piece is chosen for each district in every state.

Each year, the Congressional Institute sponsors a nationwide high school visual arts competition to recognize and encourage artistic talent. The selected high school artists are recognized in their districts and also during an awards Marcellinoartceremony in Washington, D.C. in June. Student works will be kept in the Capitol Building throughout next year.

Marcellino’s work, titled “Look”, is an oil painting that was inspired by pictures from a photoshoot of a friend. His private art teacher encouraged him to paint “Look” after seeing the pictures.


The painting depicts a girl looking down at the water and standing on top of a rock, but there is a greater message conveyed.

“In the picture, the person is deliberately looking around at nature and not looking at the onlooker. Basically that’s to signify that with our busy lives, it’s hard to take the time to appreciate what we have around us so we just need to take a moment and stop,” said Marcellino.

Besides being featured in the Capitol for a year, Marcellino has also received two plane tickets to attend the ceremony in the coming month.

Next year, Marcellino plans on attending Brigham Young University to major in biology but will continue to take art classes on the side.link to top

BRENDAN KELLY
Brendan Kelly, a gaming enthusiast and Leesville senior, goes above and beyond for his passion for gaming. In January, he participated in an Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) event, playing his game of choice, Cloudbuilt, in front of a large online audience.

The event is fairly simple, and it is all for charity. “Every [gamer] goes up on stream, you get roughly one to two hundred thousand people watching, and then people will donate to the stream, just as people play, just to support their favorite streamers,” said Kelly.

Kelly had previously watched the event for two or three years before entering. Having always enjoyed involvement as a spectator, it was a natural move to apply to join the event as a gamer, particularly after Kelly discovered a new favorite speed-based game. After playing it over and over to improve his time completing the game, Kelly submitted an application to AGDQ. “A couple of months ago I submitted the game because you basically fill out an application like two hundred words about your game, a video of you completing it, how long you think it’ll take and they sort through them. They just create a schedule out of that. So I was lucky enough to be selected for the event in January,” said Kelly.

Besides the opportunity to play his favorite game alongside other gamers, Kelly enjoys the publicity he gives to the company that made Cloudbuilt. “A really big reason on why I’m doing this is because the game that I really love is not that popular. But I think it’s phenomenal…It is events like this where I can expose the game to like 100,000 people who also like speed-based games…I think [it] can be a lot of help, because this is Coilworks’ first game, and it’s amazing and they didn’t make a lot of money off of it…I want to do whatever I can to help them out,” said Kelly.

Brendan Kelly, after having successfully streaming with AGDQ in January, will also be participating in the event in July in Minneapolis, Minnesota. link to top

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