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Q&A: As Liberty High class graduates, valedictorian says school prepared her for college

Liberty High School kicked off the series of graduations for Carroll County Public Schools at the Carroll County Agricultural Center’s Shipley Arena. The 274 graduates, all wearing blue, were recognized for their accomplishment at Tuesday’s commencement ceremony.

Some of the noted accomplishments for this class were the 45,000 service hours logged and that 81 graduates earned at least one college scholarship. The total amount of scholarship money earned by Liberty’s class of 2021 was $6.6 million. Approximately 70% of class members were accepted to a four-year college or university.

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Kenneth Goncz, principal of Liberty High, spent the beginning of the ceremony recognizing multiple students for various accomplishments. One of the students recognized more than once was Emmerson Jordan, the class president and valedictorian. One of her accomplishments was taking 16 advanced placement courses, the most in her class.

The Times caught up with Jordan to learn about her high school experience and plans for the future.

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Q: How would you describe your high school experience?

Emmerson Jordan, a 2021 graduate, will attend University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in the fall and plans to keep busy and involved like she did at Liberty High School.
Emmerson Jordan, a 2021 graduate, will attend University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in the fall and plans to keep busy and involved like she did at Liberty High School. (Mort Shuman)

A: I had a great experience at Liberty High School. There were so many ways to get involved in the school which was very important to me. I was class president, [National Honor Society] vice president, participated in multiple clubs, and ran on the cross country and track teams. There is always something going on at Liberty such as service opportunities through the National Honor Society and Leo Club, advisory parties, concerts, and sporting events. Looking back, I’m really proud of how my classmates and I have grown up during these past four years.

Q: How would you describe your experience when schools were virtual/hybrid?

A: Although it was difficult not seeing my teachers and classmates face-to-face, all things considered, this year was pretty normal. Of course, there were certain rites of passage that we couldn’t do safely such as winning the spirit stick during the homecoming pep rally and the senior cruise. However, classes were still engaging and rigorous, many sports had semi-regular seasons, extracurricular groups held various activities, and I still got to see my friends outside of school. The biggest perk of virtual school, at least in the winter, was not having to scrape ice off my windshield at 7 in the morning.

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Q: What are your academic and/or career plans?

A: Next year I will be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and I plan on majoring in either statistics or computer science. I will also be in the honors and accelerated research programs. I’m not completely set on my career plans, they are subject to change daily, but right now I am interested in bioinformatics. Luckily, I have a few years to figure that out and I’m excited for the opportunity to continue my education at a great university!

Q: How has high school prepared you for those plans?

A: I feel as though high school has prepared me for the rigors of higher education. All of the academic departments at Liberty have strong teachers and offer challenging AP classes. During the school year, I took as many AP classes as I could and continued to take higher-level classes over the summer through the Johns Hopkins [Center for Talented Youth] program and Carroll Community College. On top of my academic course load, I was also involved in multiple extracurriculars and was part of a mentorship program for Northrop Grumman. Something I really like about UNC is how involved students are on campus and I think that my high school schedule has prepared me to balance a lot of activities.

Q: What is your favorite high school memory?

A: My favorite high school memory was going on the annual cross country trip to New York City. Every year during Thanksgiving break the cross country team went up to NYC to run in the Foot Locker race. During the two-day trip, we hung out in Chinatown, ate pizza in Little Italy, took pictures in Central Park, and visited the German Market right outside of Times Square. Overall it was a great experience every time we went!

Q: What is something you learned in high school that you will carry with you in the next chapter of your life?

A: One thing that high school has taught me is the importance of adaptability. Going into our junior year, no one ever expected that we would need to go virtual. I learned that it is OK when your plans don’t turn out as you envisioned them to be. Although we missed out on some things like in-person internships and senior activities, I am thankful for the support of my teachers and mentors at Northrup Grumman for making the virtual learning experience engaging and interesting.

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