As students prepare to return to school this month, Lake Norman Magazine has decided to salute some of the high achievers in our midst. We compiled nominations from area schools and parents and winnowed our final selections based on the variety of their pursuits both inside and outside the classroom. They serve as an inspiration during the coming year.
Hunter StewartAge: 11Grade/School: Rising 6th grader at Brawley Middle SchoolParent’s Names: Todd and Alycia Stewart
Hunter has been racing since 2007, a year he experienced a life-changing event: His mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the same time, the 7-year-old was learning about scientists searching for ways to cure diseases. One day Hunter loaded a bucket into his race trailer and collected money from people at the racetrack “to donate to the scientists.” He took his fundraising efforts one step further, deciding to donate his allowance for every race lap he completed.
That was four years ago. Since then, Hunter’s commitment to racing has excelled as he competes in approximately 25 events each year, racing a Bandolero car – described as a step between go-karts and cars – and a dirt motorcycle. He competed at this summer’s Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Summer Shootout, winning his division on the first night and finishing second in the second race. It’s no surprise he hopes to become a NASCAR driver.
But he would argue his proudest accomplishment is his donations to cancer research that led his family to found Racing2Cure (www.Racing2Cure.org), an organization that allows racers of all ages to raise money for cancer research. To date over $50,000 has been has been raised, and Hunter’s goal is to raise one million dollars by 2012. The foundation attracted national attention, landing Hunter on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and earning him recognition as one of 10 role models under age 18 in Forbes Magazine.
Hunter’s mom has had another recent battle with cancer, so he’s more determined than ever. “I wanted to raise money to help the scientist find a cure for breast cancer so that no other moms would have to get cancer,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, you just have to try to help and never give up!”
Jake BringewattAge: 15Grade: Rising sophomore at Davidson Day SchoolParents: Kevin and Tamara Bringewatt
Jake took AP physics and biology. So do many students – but rarely in 8th and 9th grade as he did. It’s no wonder that the rising sophomore, who won last year’s Davidson Day Upper School Life Science prize, hopes his future career involves the sciences.
In addition to excelling in academics, Jake demonstrates well-roundedness by serving on the student council, playing the saxophone, taking karate and being a member of the school’s cross-country and baseball teams. He contributed to Davidson Day’s first varsity baseball team that made it to the final eight of the state tournament.
Jake credits his cross-country coach David Hall for being a central role model. “Coach Hall emphasizes the importance of dedication and the ability to keep going when things are tough,” he says. “These ideas are important to succeed in life.”
Rachel BringewattAge: 15Grade School: Rising sophomore at Davidson Day SchoolParents: Kevin and Tamara Bringewatt
Rachel’s strategies for success are working hard, giving your best effort and respecting yourself and others. Like her twin brother Jake, she has a great passion for the sciences, completing AP chemistry in 9th grade and winning last year’s Davidson Day Upper School Physical Science prize.
Rachel is involved in many extracurricular activities, including band, yearbook, cross-country, basketball and soccer. She contributed to the soccer team’s claim to the conference title, a first in Davidson Day’s history. Outside of school, she studies dance and karate.
Rachel credits her school mentors for helping her reach the next level. “Whether it’s through balancing a chemical equation or running a basketball offense, my teachers and coaches are showing me how to be a successful adult,” she says.
Stephen DaspitAge: 16Grade: Rising junior at South Iredell High SchoolParents: Paul and Kelley Daspit
What started out as a school project is now an ongoing mission to end hunger in his hometown. Last fall Stephen launched the “One CanOne PersonBig Difference” initiative and collected 10,000 cans of food for the Mooresville Soup Kitchen. “After connecting with the Town of Mooresville and experiencing the joy and happiness of helping those in need, I’m setting a new goal of donating 25,000 cans,” he says.
Stephen also helps the community through volunteering with other service-based groups, including leading his school’s Relay for Life team. “My grandma, who passed away three years ago from cancer, was my role model because of her constant happiness, desire and motivation.” Stephen says. “Her positive outlook on life has inspired me.”
Elizabeth ThompsonAge: 17Grade: Rising senior at Pine Lake Preparatory SchoolParents: Vic and Mary Thompson
Elizabeth enjoys her role as drum major for the Pine Lake Marching Band. But a big passion is helping others, whether with her youth group at Lake Norman Baptist Church or her family, who each summer serve as counselors to mentally and physically challenged people at Camp Joy at Bonclarken in Flat Rock, N.C.
Elizabeth’s dad had to twist her arm to join Pine Lake’s first Robotics team, Team SPORK. Fast-forward to last year when she served as co-captain and celebrated the team’s Imagery Award win at the FIRST Robotics Palmetto Regional competition in Charleston, S.C. last spring. “Robotics is such a unifying experience,” Elizabeth says. “It thrills me to use my classroom knowledge to develop design ideas, blend the ideas with my teammates’ concepts and see the design become a reality.”
The rising senior plans a career that combines her interests in the sciences and helping others. “I want to use my talents and interest in engineering and robotics to design and develop medical devices that may help disabled people enjoy a better quality of life.”
Taylor HartzogAge: 17Grade: Rising senior at Pine Lake PreparatoryParent’s Names: Charles and Mindy Hartzog
Like many girls, Taylor started dancing when she was just 2 years old. But unlike many, she will travel next month with the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble to perform at the Vancouver Tap Festival. Taylor auditioned for the ensemble, a professional dance company based in Chapel Hill, in 8th grade and has been part of the group ever since. “Although I danced competitively and won national and regional awards, there’s nothing more gratifying than the joy the audience brings,” Taylor says. She attends four-hour rehearsals every Saturday in Chapel Hill for performances, competitions and auditions that have taken her across the state and across the country.
When she’s not dancing, Taylor maintains a 4.8 GPA with a busy academic course load that includes several AP courses. She plans to study pre-med in college. “My motto is: Be the change you wish to see in the world,” she says.
Cameron ClarkAge: 18Grade: Incoming freshman at Davidson College (2011 Graduate of North Mecklenburg High School). Parents: Gordon and Rebecca Clark
Earning a 4.73 GPA, graduating from North Mecklenburg’s International Baccalaureate Program, leading his school’s Relay for Life team to raise over $3,000 for three straight years and participating in out-of-state and overseas church mission trips may seem like a lot to many. But Cameron humorously describes himself as a “skilled procrastinator.”
The Davidson resident who begins study this fall at Davidson College plans to major in Environmental Studies. “I’m very interested in sustainability and protecting our planet and all things living on it,” Cameron says. Helping others is very important to him, as exemplified through his involvement in Davidson Presbyterian Church. A memorable mission trip took him to Kenya. “We didn’t travel there to physically work on something but rather to learn from one another,” he says. “We gained as much from our partners as they gained from us.”
In keeping with the theme of helping others, Cameron quickly offers advice for incoming high school students: “Be open-minded and try new things,” he says. “My list of activities happened naturally. It’s better when you follow your interests.”