Seven members of the Class of 2015 earned Golden Cupolas for their citizenship, leadership, and contributions to the community.


Senior standouts honored with Golden Cupolas

North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics presents its Golden Cupola award to graduating seniors who have shown exemplary citizenship and leadership and made outstanding contributions to the community. Any member of the NCSSM community — fellow students, faculty, staff, parents, or alumni — may submit nominations for these awards.

Golden Cupola honorees for the Class of 2015 are:

Jacob Botros, Waxhaw, NC
Well-known across campus, Jacob served as a two-year Senator in Student Government and a Student Ambassador. He was a Residential Counselor for Step Up to STEM, our summer program for middle-schoolers. He has played rugby since the seventh grade, playing on the South Carolina State Championship team before enrolling at NCSSM, where he has captained our team as President of the NCSSM Rugby Club. He also joined the NCSSM wrestling team and appreciates “the work ethic and the character of all the kids I have met through wrestling.” With another student he cofounded the Gentleman’s Club for Aesthetic Living to “recreate the image of a gentleman as one who lives his life beautifully and with purpose to serve others.” A special insight into the way he takes responsibility for his community is contained in the way he pulled aside a student who was being particularly rude to others in the first week of Step Up to STEM, so much so that the young student was being considered for dismissal. After their late-night talk, the boy’s behavior changed markedly, with no more incidents. Jacob loves NCSSM and has looked for as many ways to serve it as he can.

Kennedy Bridges, Summerfield, NC
Kennedy served as a Residence Life Assistant, as a program assistant for our Summer Leadership and Research Experience, and as captain of the cheerleading team. She has played viola since the sixth grade and was in the Western Regional Orchestra. She’s a leader in NIA, NCSSM Feminists, and Spectrum clubs. She served as Head Captain at Carolina All Star Cheer and Dance. She learned about time management and taking responsibility for her actions as a paid housekeeper for the Beacon Light Baptist Church. Once, when asked about applying to a specific university, she responded that, after doing research, she had doubts because it was “very LGBT unfriendly.” She was then asked why she cared so much, because she isn’t LGBT herself. She realized that people are often not concerned about things that don’t affect them directly. “I want to live in an environment with open-minded individuals because, for the best education, you have to allow yourself to be open to diverse ideas and people.” Kennedy says this Tibetan proverb summarizes her view of life: “I’d rather have lived one day as a tiger than a thousand years as a sheep.”

Keilah Davis, Durham, NC
A teacher recommended Keilah because she “exemplifies our school motto: ‘Accept the Greater Challenge.’ She strives academically, chooses challenges over cakewalks, and wants her actions to make a difference for those around her.” Keilah serves as a Physics TA, having chosen that leadership role over being a Residence Life Assistant. She was a primary organizer of AfricaFest and was the main organizer of the seminar, The New Jim Crow.  She “has service in her blood,” her teacher says. At her former high school, Keilah organized a health fair to ensure that students had access to health resources and information. She volunteers as an after-school tutor in math and science every week. She’s a member of the Chorus, Colours, H.O.P.E, and NIA and played on the NCSSM tennis team. “I learned that I could make a difference wherever I am,” Keilah says. “That is what fuels me. That is why I do what I do.”

Peter Ojo, Fayetteville, NC
His teacher, Student Life Instructor, parent, and an alumnus all nominated Peter for his leadership and commitment to service. He has served as a Residence Life Assistant, a two-year member of student government, vice president of Legacy, and copresident of the “No One Likes a Bully” club. He served as a counselor in NCSSM’s Summer Accelerator program. He volunteers with Urban Hope, which serves underrepresented Durham youth. He also volunteered at Cape Fear Valley Hospital and Better Health of Cumberland County in Fayetteville. He served as a House Page in the NC General Assembly, and he traveled back to the General Assembly this year to advocate for creating a position on the NCSSM Board of Trustees for our Student Government President. He received the NCSSM Scholar Athlete Award. Through all of these leadership and service activities, he has remained “unfailingly polite, respectful of others, and committed to leading and serving his community,” his teacher says. His “warmth, energy, flexibility, and generous spirit make him an effective collaborator.”

Kali Smith, Connellys Springs, NC
As one of those behind-the-scenes leaders, Kali is always there to make things go right. She has her share of recognized leadership positions: a two-year Senator, Student Ambassador, and director of the school musical. She has set school records in the shot put and discus, played bassoon in the orchestra (she switched from the oboe to learn a new instrument when there were too many oboists and not enough bassoonists), and written for The Stentorian and The Blue Mirror, to name a few of her activities. But perhaps her most distinctive accomplishments come from seeing a need and getting something started to meet it: Kali founded the Anti-Lawn Association that created the campus vegetable garden, got composting started on halls, and coordinated the first Student Government block party last year. She has served in many volunteer activities off campus as well. “She knows herself….She is clear in her communication, and she doesn’t waste words,” says one of her nominators. “She has a lot of drive and resilience. Once she takes on a project, she stays actively involved and follows through. She is analytical and solution-oriented, and she is able to get people, students and staff, to contribute their time and energy to worthwhile projects.” Kali earns good grades, but it’s her strongest qualities, skills, and values that will make her a highly effective leader in her career.

Ashlyn Stackhouse, North Wilkesboro, NC
Ashlyn has overcome some unusual challenges to be a leader in her previous schools and within the NCSSM community. She served as a Residence Life Assistant, senator in Student Government, as cocaptain of the women’s golf team, copresident for UHOO (Unis Helping Others) Club, copresident and project chair of Key Club, cocaptain of her IGEM team, and vice president of Rotary Interact. Her service activities include three years of volunteering at Camp Carolwood, a church day camp; keeping rescue animals; and working with special needs adults through UHOO on Tuesday nights — her favorite time of the week, she says. She sings in the NCSSM Chorale and swing dances every week. Her challenges early in life, her nominator says, gave her “the ability to discern the larger scope of situations and establish action plans to achieve goals.”

ChiChi Zhu, Cary, NC
ChiChi possesses “passion which drives her to commit wholeheartedly to every undertaking that she pursues,” as one nominator says of her. She has pursued her wide-ranging interests from environmental issues to media, photography, women’s issues, swing dancing, playing the ukulele, neuromuscular rehabilitation… and plenty more. Her leadership positions included cofounding and serving as copresident of NCSSM’s Ukulele Ensemble, copresident of the Group for Liberal Students, Science Communicator, and cocaptain of an IGEM team. In many more informal ways, she contributed to the life and vigor of the NCSSM community and beyond: ChiChi organized and publicized the teen-oriented science cafés at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, helped plan two TEDxNCSSM conferences and served as the first NCSSM student TEDx speaker, and traveled to New York City to participate in and document the People’s Climate March with Greenpeace. She worked as photographer and/or photo editor for just about every student publication on campus. She uniquely featured many distinctive personalities on campus through the Humans of NCSSM Facebook page of portraits and quotes.