Students at Stokes Early College High School have earned $4,790,660 in scholarship offers this year, with Sydney Simmons leading the pack with almost $1 million in offers from nine different schools.
Amazingly, Simmons only applied for one of the scholarship offers, with the others being offered by schools just based on the quality of her admissions application packet.
“I knew going into this process that I did not want to take out any loans,” said Simmons,” but I did not expect the scholarships like this. I hoped I might get $10,000 here or there, but I ended up being offered a total of $975,936. It was really shocking and unexpected.”
Simmons will be attending Elon University in the fall, accepting $166,736 in funding over four years.
“I had three top schools, Meredith College, Elon University, and Hampton University,” said Simmons. “When Elon came through with the money, I knew that was where I was going to go.”
She said that she received an admissions letter every week for about two months, and then later the funding offerings from each school started to come in.
“To see my hard work pay off from having straight A’s from elementary school through high school was great,” said Simmons. “It was like all the hard work was paying off and it was really rewarding and very shocking.”
Simmons plans on studying business at Elon University with a dream of eventually owning her own bakery. She said she wanted to get the business degree before considering culinary school because she knew it would be easier to get merit based scholarships at this point in her career.
Simmons already has some experience in the culinary world, working full time at Starbucks while finishing her senior year at Stokes Early College. She plans to transfer her employment to a Starbucks near Elon, but hopes to cut back on her hours so she can focus more on her studies.
Her scholarship package also includes funding for study abroad and Simmons said she hopes to go to Italy or China with that opportunity.
While the funding offers are based on Simmons’ academic successes, she said the staff at the Early College also played a big role.
“I don’t think it would have happened if I had gone to a traditional school,” she said. “The Early College provided me with more opportunities to be in a leadership role. It has been the key aspect of getting me to this point.”
She said her experiences there, coupled with the Associates Degree she will graduate with, will also help her at Elon.
“I already know how to take college classes and I know what it takes to be successful in a college class,” she said, noting that the funding offered would also cover a Master’s Degree at the school if she chooses to go that far.
Stokes County Early College Principal Misti Holloway said she was amazed at Simmons’ success, but noted that other students at the school had also received very impressive scholarship offers from multiple schools including several full rides and a Goodnight Scholarship from N.C. State University.
“It is all them,” she said. “They have to make the grades and put in the time and effort to get the college applications out and do the services hours. Add to that the fact that most of our kids , especially our graduating seniors, also work and lots of them are breadwinners for their families. We are very proud of our kids. We are ecstatic that they have accomplished what they have.”
As impressive as her success is, Simmons said she felt any student in the county could achieve similar results.
“It is not an easy process, but having the determination to get get through it and work as hard as you can and it will pay off in the end,” she said. “There were times I felt like it was not worth it and asked how am I ever going to pay for college, but the opportunities kept rolling in and if you just keep working hard it will pay off. This i your life and if you work hard the opportunities will present themselves and you will be successful no matter what you do.”
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.