Early College valedictorian will dig into global poultry industry

May. 23, 2013 @ 05:09 PM

Grayson Walker gets some odd looks when he tells people what he wants to study in college.

The Caldwell Early College High School valedictorian will attend N.C. State in the fall with a major in poultry science.

Walker has wanted to be a veterinarian since he was five, but poultry wasn’t always in the plan.

“I would have probably laughed if you told me a year ago that I would be attending N.C. State to study poultry science,” Walker said. “But now, I have no doubts.”

The poultry science program at N.C. State is one of six in the country, preparing students to work in one of the leading segments of North Carolina’s agricultural economy.

Poultry represents nearly 38 percent of cash receipts from agriculture in the state, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture. And North Carolina produces almost 10 percent of all poultry consumed in the United States, according to the Department of Poultry Science at N.C. State.

Walker pointed out that poultry is also the largest source of meat protein in the world.

“It is a vital industry in North Carolina, but also an industry that the world cannot function without,” he said.

And it’s a personal interest for Walker, who owns, houses, feeds and hatches ducks and chickens.

So Walker will go to State to study a global industry many people have never heard of but that’s a major driver of the state economy.

He’ll likely get his bachelor’s degree in two years, at the most, thanks to the two associate’s degrees he earned at the early college. After that, he’ll apply to veterinary school.

He got a head start at the early college – an opportunity he said he couldn’t pass up. But it quickly became more than a way to get started on college at little to no cost.

“CECHS is part of my family in so many ways,” Walker said. “Like I said earlier, I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I had not attended CECHS.”

Unlike some, Walker knew he wanted to be valedictorian of his class from the beginning. He was determined to keep his GPA perfect throughout elementary, middle and high school. There was only one hiccup: a B in third grade.

“The beauty of having goals,” he said, “is found in the accompanying motivation one gets. The path toward becoming the valedictorian has been rough at times, but I have made it.”

As he looks ahead to college, Walker has a million and one things he wants to do.

He’s looking forward, with some trepidation, to larger classes at N.C. State – a sharp contrast to Collettsville School and the small-on-purpose early college. And he wants to make time, in his two years of undergrad, to study abroad.

Then his plan is to follow his passion, right where he started – with a veterinary and agricultural career in Caldwell County.

“I want to return to Caldwell County and give back to this community,” he said. “Because it has given so much to me.”