Celebrating local graduates

Celebrating local graduates
(Ross and Thomas)

Mom and daughter graduate together from Fayetteville State

Mother’s Day weekend marked a doubly special graduation for Amanda Ross and her mother, Marcia Thomas, who both earned degrees from Fayetteville State University.

Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and Ross earned a master’s degree in Social Work. The family has ties to Hoke County, and future plans to open their own business in the county.

The two lined up their class schedules to be able to graduate together. Thomas also plans to continue her education and pursue a master’s degree at FSU.

Originally from Connecticut, Ross moved to the area in 2006 to attend FSU for her undergraduate program. Her mother moved to North Carolina with her, and became interested in pursuing a higher education degree.

The two both share an interest in social work. Ross, who was teaching at the time, and Thomas, who was working as an LPN, both felt it was a good direction to go in.

“Social work just seemed to fit with all the things I did outside the classroom,” Ross said. She is married to Jeremy Ross, who teaches at Westover High School.

While working, raising a family and going to school, Ross said organization helped her see it through.

“I am task-oriented. It doesn’t really phase me as long as I’m organized. I just make it work,” she said.

Both of the new graduates share a care and concern for others, and hope to continue to make an impact on the community with their new degrees.

“We want to give back to the community and open up a therapeutic service and kind of branch off from there,” Ross said.

The special graduation drew lots of attention from local and national news media, with the mother and daughter duo even sharing a special appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan this week.

[This story was updated to clarify Ross’s husband’s current teaching position.]

(Dr. Rodney McNeill)

McNeill earns doctorate from East Carolina

Rodney McNeill, a Hoke High graduate with the Class of 1999, graduated from East Carolina University May 7 with his Doctor of Education Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) degree. He also earned his superintendent’s endorsement on the same day.

Dr. McNeill has been the principal of Greene Early College High School in Snow Hill for the past seven years. He began pursuing his doctoral degree in 2018. He focused his studies on finding ways to advance the cause of undocumented students at Greene Early College.

After thousands of hours of reading, interviewing, editing, and revising, McNeill successfully defended his dissertation March 15 before a committee of ECU professors and Greene County Schools’ superintendent Dr. Patrick Miller.

“This is a tremendous milestone in my professional life. I am so grateful for my close friends, family, school staff, colleagues, and the former students that shared their stories with me along the way. I could not have done this without an incredible team around me,” McNeill said.

McNeill acknowledged two special educators, Diane Mitchell and the late Robert Blue, as having a profound impact on his academic journey.

“They held high academic expectations for me before I knew what the term meant,” he said.

(Tommy Chavis, a SandHoke graduate)

SandHoke grad pursues dentistry at Boston University

When Tommy Chavis graduated from SandHoke Early College High School, he had plans to become a dentist. So off he went to enroll at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017, earning a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science. He then transitioned to Boston University in 2018 and earned a master’s degree in Oral Health Sciences. He continued at Boston University’s Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine and will become a Doctor of Dental Medicine Candidate 2023.

“As cumbersome as it is to explain early college to people who are unfamiliar, I can say that SandHoke definitely helped me lighten my academic load once I got to UNC, and that was invaluable to me,” he said.

His plan after graduation from dental school is to complete a one-year general practice residency.

(Kelsey Lowery, Hoke Class of 2014 Valedictorian)

Hoke High Valedictorian graduates from Wingate

Hoke County High School Class of 2014 Valedictorian Kelsey Lowery will graduate from Wingate University Friday, May 14 with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

She is the daughter of Kirk and Gail Lowery. She plans to live and work as a pharmacist in the Raeford area.

Kelsey Lowery and her cousin, Taylor Cooper, made history in 2014 when they were the first Native Americans to graduate together as the top students in their class as Hoke High valedictorian and salutatorian.

Kelsey graduated from Hoke High with a 4.875 GPA, excelled in honors and AP courses and was a member of the National Honor Society.

[This story has been corrected to note that Lowery and Cooper were the first Native American students to graduate together as valedictorian and salutatorian in the same year at Hoke High. Lowery was not the first Hoke High Native American valedictorian, an honor that went to Class of 1982 graduate Rose Parish.]

(Tnesha Shaw as Chancellor for a Day)

Shaw earns master’s degree, honored with luncheon

Tnesha Shaw graduated May 8 from Fayetteville State University with a master of arts degree in Sociology. Additionally, she was honored during graduation and afterwards as the Chancellor for a Day.

“My family and I attended the Chancellors luncheon in the Chancellor’s box immediately after graduation. It was a true honor!” Shaw said.  

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