After sophomore year, students are given the opportunity to apply to the North Carolina School of Science & Math, a statewide residential magnet school for students with a strong aptitude and interest in math and science. Kirby Vardo-Russ applied to the school after sophomore year and was granted acceptance.
Q: How did you hear about NCSSM? And why did you wish to apply?
A: My mom heard about NCSSM on NPR and told me a little bit about it. I thought it was cool that you lived at the school and that you got free tuition to in-state colleges. I decided to apply because even though Leesville is a really great school, with a lot of talented, smart, and willing-to-learn people, I want to be surrounded by people that have a thirst for knowledge and in an environment where people are not judged for being inquisitive or hard-working
Q: What do you miss about Leesville?
A: I really miss the high school atmosphere of Leesville- the excitement over football games, the school spirit and rivalries towards other schools, and the freedom of being able to drive (we can’t have cars at Science & Math). I miss a lot of friends that I made there, and I wish that I was able to see them more often. I also miss living at home and being able to have people over at my house, and getting to spend time with my parents.
Q: What do you not miss about Leesville?
A: Something that I don’t miss at Leesville is the cliques that form. I think that people in cliques sometimes become more concerned about what others think of them, and concerned about judging others, than being nice to others and being their own person.
Q: Does NCSSM offer better opportunities than Leesville does?
A: I do think that NCSSM offers a lot of opportunities but not necessarily better ones. I think that all people are different, and while one thing might be a great thing for one person, it could be the wrong thing for another person. However, the opportunities that the school presented me started with a broad range of course offerings, such as Molecular Genetics, Differential Equations, and Classical Guitar. It also gives people who came from a tough economic background the opportunity to go to a school that is rich in academics, and pays for tuition for any in-state college or university. The small classes and academic rigor, and the fact that there is no class rank, provides the most important opportunity for me- to become a really tight community of friends who help each other to do our best.
Q: Has your relationship changed with your parents?
A: My relationship with my parents changed a lot. At first, they wanted me to call them every day and always ask their permission before I went out, even though they weren’t with me. When they realized this was not plausible, they kind of let go a little bit. It was kind of difficult at first because there was tension between my parents and me over the fact that we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together, and tension because our relationship was changing. Luckily, my parents and I are close, and so I had a lot of conversations with them about what we could do to try to maintain a strong relationship. One thing that I learned, though, is that nothing ever stays the same. While you may want to keep the same relationship with someone, things are always changing; accept new things instead of trying to recreate or mimic old things.
Q: What do you like about NCSSM the most?
A: The main thing that I love about NCSSM is the people. You find friends wherever you go- in middle school, in high school, in college, in sports and extracurricular. I have a lot of close friends at Leesville, but I’ve been lucky enough to make a lot of close friends at Science & Math too. I think the most valuable thing that Science & Math has offered me is the experience of being around people who love learning and who have extremely high goals and aspirations. It has caused me to reexamine myself as a person, and to reevaluate what my interests and limits are. NCSSM has challenged me to an unbelievable extent- in heart, body, and mind- but it’s the challenged that have lead me to grow and learn more about myself, and that will hopefully prepare me for the future.