• Hailey Porter poses with her diploma during the North Carolina School of Science & Mathematics’ graduation ceremony on May 26.

SCOUTING AROUND: County native graduates from prestigious school

    Hailey Porter graduated high school a week earlier than most of the kids she went to school with in Martins Creek. That’s because she is Cherokee County’s most recent graduate from the North Carolina School of Science & Mathematics in Durham.
    NCSSM is a public residential school for “academically talented” 11th and 12th grade students in North Carolina. Students apply for admission in their 10th grade year, and selected students attend for free.
    “It’s a big achievement to be admitted to the NCSSM residential program,” said Bryan Gilmer, director of communications. “We accept only about 600 students each year, and they’re from every corner of the state.”
    Porter was one of the school’s 315 graduates from 74 counties on May 26. The last graduate from Cherokee County was James Um of Andrews High School in 2014.
    When she heard about the school, Porter was taking online classes in addition to her regular classes at Murphy High School. One of those online course teachers also taught at NCSSM, and encouraged her to apply.
    “I always loved science and math,” Porter said. “I wanted to take advantage of what I love.”
    While she had gone to Martins Creek School since pre-kindergarten and was on Murphy’s softball team, she didn’t feel she belonged at Murphy. She saw going to Durham for the rest of high school as an adventure.
    When she started at the school in 2016, Porter knew no one, and was a little homesick, but her mom, Amy Morin, visited often. She soon made close friends, and one of the first people she met, Emily Holmes, became her best friend.
    The school offered a summer program before the year began to help get all students on the same level academically. Then, throughout the year, students worked as a community, helping each other achieve. She was amazed to learn the school had four or five labs just for biology, then another set of labs for chemistry, and still another for physics.
    “There were so many more opportunities to learn,” Porter said. “I really felt like I belonged more at Science and Math ... I did not feel out of place at all.”
    Porter continued playing softball, joining the school’s team. Since students there are more focused on their classwork, she said the team was less competitive than she would have liked. However, it was fun to be on the field for an hour and a half each day and to play as a Unicorn.
    She spent her last year at the school as a resident life assistant. She was involved in many clubs on campus, including the chorus, Book Club and Disney Movie Club. She also enjoyed being able to volunteer during a food drive.
    Porter will be attending the University of Alabama in Huntsville in the fall, and plans to major in computer science and chemistry.
    Although all classes at NCSSM are college-level courses, not all classes can be used toward college credit. That doesn’t matter to most students, Porter said.
    “You went out there so you could learn more,” she said.
    Porter encourages anyone with strong academics to apply to NCSSM. In fact, there are already two other students from Cherokee County attending – Claire Hendrix, a rising senior from Murphy who previously attended Hayesville High School, and Jared Lewis, an incoming junior from Murphy High School.
    “I don’t regret it at all,” Porter said. “It gave me my best friend, and I learned more in the past two years than I ever learned.”

Parade returns to Murphy
    After a year with no formal parade, Murphy will have a Patriotic Fourth of July Parade this year on the holiday. The parade is being organized by Jim Seals and Councilwoman Barbara Hughes. Entry forms are available online at townofmurphync.com.
    “We want to keep it simple, but very patriotic,” Hughes said.
    Hughes would like to see any organizations or groups available participating in the parade.
    There is no entry fee, but forms must be returned by July 1. Staging for the parade will begin at 12:30 p.m. The parade will start at the L&N Depot at 2 p.m., travel through downtown, then end at Konehete Park, where other festivities will be held throughout the day.
    “We’re planning for a really big day,” Hughes said.
    The parade had only been a tradition in Murphy for about a decade. Seals was among those disappointed there was no parade planned last year. He and other members of the Tarheel Drive community were given permission to drive their decorated golf carts downtown for an informal parade, as they already had made plans to do so.
    Seals said they are also looking for volunteers to help organize this year’s parade. For details, call city hall at 837-2510 or email town_of_murphy@frontier.com.
    Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.