Not far off in the future is the graduation date for our Class of 2011 seniors. Some schools in the area — Broughton and Sanderson come most readily to mind — are significantly older, and have graduated far more classes’ worth of students over the years. Leesville still has its share of famous alumni, though (in no particular order):
- Clay Aiken (Class of 1996): oh, come on, you know who this is… Aiken rose to stardom in the second season of American Idol in 2003, coming in second place on the show. His run on national television led to support nationwide and worldwide; many students who attended Leesville Elementary during this period might recall that he visited and performed for students. Aiken has appeared on Broadway and released six successful studio albums, becoming the fourth artist ever to have his first three albums debut in the Top 5. He currently resides in the Triangle area.
[Let it be known that Aiken was a member of the chorus program here, under the direction of our own Diane Covington… and that current Idol finalist Scotty McCreery attended Garner Magnet High and was taught chorus by Mrs. Covington’s daughter Meredith Clayton. With that said, we should consider ourselves warned — anyone passing through a Covington program could very well be a new entry on this list…]
- Taylor Gentry (Class of 2009): Gentry, starting fullback for the NC State Wolfpack football team, has played the position for his two years on the team, and earning the distinction of “Special Teams Player of the Year” in both seasons. Gentry (and his brother Zach, who plays a smaller role on the team) scored in multiple games in the 2010 season to help the Wolfpack to a 9-4 season and a Champs Sports Bowl victory over West Virginia University.
- Andrew Paul Vine-Britton (Class of 1999): Britton was a mystery novelist who graduated from Leesville after living in Raleigh and Grand Rapids, Michigan; he was born and raised mostly in Peterborough, England and Northern Ireland. After leaving LRHS and attending UNC-Chapel Hill, Britton found success in literature, writing his first novel at the age of 23, and published three books total before his untimely death in Durham of a heart condition in 2008. More manuscripts are expected to be published. Britton was referred to by some critics as “the new Tom Clancey”.
- Michael Alvarado (Class of 2006): Alvarado is a singer/songwriter from Leesville who gained popularity during his time at Appalachian State University, where he is a music major. He plays piano, sings, and composes all music performed by the band that bears his name. According to his website, Alvarado released his first EP, “Waste the Day”, in July of 2008 as a sophomore, and followed it up with another, entitled “Love is All”, via Antennae Studios in Nashville, TN. A new single, “Girl in L.A.”, was scheduled for release on May 15th.
Clearly, this list could be longer — other schools in our area have had significantly more time to cultivate fame. Sanderson High can claim David and Amy Sedaris as their home-grown comedic deities; Enloe produced a mayor of Atlanta and a current NBA coach; Garner is the original stomping grounds of John Wall and home to Scotty McCreery; Athens Drive is home to one of baseball’s best in Josh Hamilton.
But Leesville is only as old as our senior class, leaving limited chances to live up to the alumni legacy set by, for example, Broughton — a school rich with heritage intertwined with Raleigh itself.
Your job then, seniors and other students, is to throw your hat in the proverbial ring; perhaps this list will include your name someday.
Don’t forget Jessica Groelke (now Jessie Kol). Although she didn’t graduate LRHS, she is an alumni. She moved to Nashville, TN to begin her successful music career and graduated high school there. She has so far had iTunes Top 30 chart success. She too was a student of Mrs. Covington. She is currently working on her 3rd studio release. Check out her AllAboutJazz.com profile and her YouTube channel to see what she’s been up to: