LAKE WYLIE — Clover High School’s top academic stars graduating in the class of 2014 have engineered plans for their futures.
Valedictorian Ashley Thomas, daughter of Phillip Thomas of Barnwell and Christa and William Bolin of Clover, plans to attend Clemson University in the fall to major in engineering.
“My dream is to design a cruise ship,” she said.
During a cruise with the Choraliers director Jay Forrest orchestrated a tour of the bridge with the captain for Thomas.
“That meant a whole lot to me,” she said.
Thomas said following a school tour of the BMW plant in Spartanburg, she became interested in transportation and the auto industry. Being inspired by years of family fun at their Lake Wateree lake house, Thomas said, “I just want to do something crazy, out of the ordinary and fun.”
Salutatorian Madeleine Kathleen Burrell, daughter of Joni and Chris Burrell of York, plans to attend the University of Tennessee in Knoxville to study nuclear engineering. Growing up near Catawba Nuclear Station and taking field trips there sparked her interest.
“I went to summer camps that exposed me to nuclear engineering, and the more I learned the more I liked it,” she said.
Burrell hopes to go abroad after college, maybe to France, and eventually return home to the South.
“I don’t think it would be hard to go international,” she said of her career path.
Both graduates have a love for math and science, although Burrell admits math is a challenge. Both grew hooked on engineering following high school classes. Burrell loves literature, while Thomas said English “killed me. I’m jut not really good at writing papers.”
Both say to achieve their academic success took hard work and determination, and support.
“I studied a lot,” Thomas said. “I don’t consider myself naturally smart. I missed out on a lot of social events, but I’m happy I achieved my goal. It was worth it.”
Her mother, who didn’t go to college, always encouraged her to continue her education and achieve the job she wants, Thomas said.
“I’m really competitive,” she said. “I don’t like to be last.”
Thomas said her new found faith also kept her going during her senior year. She became a baptized Baptist just before the school year began.
“My biggest influence in life is God,” she said. “That faith really helped me throughout the year.”
Burrell said following a bridge ceremony in seventh grade her entire family attended, she felt her mediocre grades didn’t cut the muster.
“I was embarrassed I didn’t make the honor rolls,” she said. “I decided I was going to do better because I knew I could do better.”
Burrell graduated Thursday night with her 472 classmates with a 5.155 GPA.
“I’m a little nervous, but really excited and glad to go on to the next stage in my life,” she said. “I’m ready.”
Thomas said one person she will really miss is her twin sister, Madeleine, who will be going to USC Aiken to major in business.
“We haven’t been apart for more than a week or two,” Thomas said.
She also helped her sister to remember to have fun.
“I’m the nerdy one, she’s the more outgoing one,” Thomas said, “so she definitely kept me having fun in high school.”
Burrell, the third of four children, is the first to go to college.
“It’s a new experience for all of us, and we’re all going through it together,” she said.
Just as Thomas sang in the Choraliers and was on the group’s advisory board, she hopes to continue with a choral group in college. Her other high school activities included catapult club, yacht club, Interact, All State Chorus, National Honor Society and Honors Chorale.
Burrell is already looking into college clubs and organizations, possibly rowing and fencing. In school, she earned the National Congressional Gold Award, was an Air Force Junior ROTC member for four years, earning the highest rank of cadet corporal and corps commander. She also was math team president, Model United Nation co-president, and a member of the student council and marching band. Her community involvement included earning the Girl Scout Gold Award, and she volunteered with Clover Area Assistance Center, which included fundraising for the full choice pantry, and York Teen Advisory Board for the library.
“I did a lot in high school,” she said. The one attempt that didn’t stick, she said, was cross country track.
“That’s the only thing in high school I did not like,” Burrell said.
Catherine Muccigrosso • 803-831-8166