Hard work mixed with strong friendship for Early College salutatorian

May. 30, 2013 @ 09:02 PM

Anna White wasn’t the only one who teared up during her commencement speech.

As she spoke, more than a handful of adults at the Caldwell Early College High School graduation let a tear or two slip, too. And you could hear that sound people make when they hear something they particularly agree with: that mm sound of approval and affirmation.

In her speech, White – the early college’s salutatorian – talked about the connections she had made at the unconventional high school. She talked about the way her classmates’ friendships progressed over the years, from cautious examination to comfortable familiarity, and the way she grew to rely on them.

“We know each other inside and out, and we still love each other,” White said from the stage. “This year, we decided on college and career paths – and we finally realized how much we love and depend on our family here.”

In an interview, White said the small class sizes at the early college contributed to that feeling of family.

“When you spend every day for nine weeks with the same group of people, you fall into this natural routine of friendship,” she said. “After five years, we became a close-knit group of friends. I think that in a bigger school, we may have been swallowed up as part of a huge group.”

It wasn’t just about the friendships, of course. White’s mother had encouraged her to attend the early college because she’d have opportunities there that weren’t available at a traditional high school, and she soaked up that unconventional learning environment – eventually finishing second in her class.

Ask White, and she’ll chalk that up to three things: a decent memory, a knack for test-taking, and hard work.

“I don’t think I set out to be salutatorian,” she said. “I worked hard and I wouldn’t settle for anything less than the best I could do, so I ended up being salutatorian anyway.”

Now, White is set for her next step. In the fall, she’ll head to Massachusetts to study Christian ministry and theology at Berkshire Institute for Christian Studies.

After that, she’ll come back to North Carolina to complete her bachelor’s degree at a university here – she’s not sure which one.

But White left the early college with more than preparation for the future – she left with a family.

“I love each and every one of my classmates and my teachers,” she said. “They have shaped who I am and I will miss them very much.”