Thomas Shirley and Carrie Lee Lancaster took advantage of opportunities to grow and change during their high school years. They hope to continue that in college.
Shirley, who was valedictorian of the 2015 graduating class at York Comprehensive High School, plans to attend the Clemson University Honors College in the fall.
Lancaster, who was salutatorian, plans to attend Smith College in Northhampton, Mass.
“I feel like high school has helped me develop into who I am and helped me develop into being a stronger man,” said Shirley, 17, the son of Mark and Lynnette Shirley. “It’s helped me deal with the stress I’ve had since I’ve taken so many classes.”
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Lancaster, 18 and the daughter of David and Debbie Lancaster, said she chose Smith because she believes it will offer her even more “opportunities for me to grow as a person.”
Both of YHCS’s top grads did a lot during high school.
Shirley said he sang in the YCHS choir and played Cougar soccer all four years. He also played club soccer for Discoveries, was involved in the FBLA, a student business group and had a part-time job at Pizza Hut.
He has been accepted into the Clemson engineering program, and has discovered that he enjoys designing things. Developing roads or some other government planning role might be in his future, he said.
Shirley’s advice to younger students? Hard work pays off.
“I’ve taken difficult classes and I’ve pushed myself,” he said. “There have been quite a few late nights, especially for my calculus class this year. I’ve had to stay up and put in a lot of work, but it’s definitely been worth it.”
His classes included three Advanced Placement classes, including the AP calculus class, and a couple dual credit classes. He also sang in concerts and state competitions.
“I’ve always loved to sing, and I’ve always loved to go outside and be active,” he said.
Lancaster agreed that effort in high school pays off.
She played varsity basketball since eighth grade and volleyball since ninth grade. She was president of the Mu Alpha Theta math honor society and also active in National Honor Society and an English honor society.
Lancaster said she also created a group called Girl Voice, which aims to bring girls together to raise awareness in the school about women’s issues locally and globally.
She also participated in a 2013 women’s leadership institute at Barnard College in New York City, during which she and other students visited the United Nations.
“My parents showed me how to develop my work ethic and be a hard worker ever since I was very young,” she said. “They’ve always been very supportive of me, everything I wanted to do.”
Lancaster said she plans to play basketball at Smith, though she chose the college for its academics more than athletics. She said she received a Smith merit scholarship that allows her to do undergraduate research for the first two years.
Lancaster said she’s thinking about double majoring in government and Spanish and minoring in women’s studies. Working at the United Nations is a dream, and she might like someday to work with immigrant women.
Lancaster, who also wants to travel in the future, said she learned a lot from being involved in many activities. “It’s helped me learn how to manage my time,” she said.
Shirley agreed, saying his high school experience leaves him feeling well prepared for college. “In high school, I’ve been able to develop myself and step out of the box a little bit,” he said.
Jennifer Becknell • 803-329-4077