Jonathan Birmingham

Jonathan Birmingham, a member of Rockingham Early College High School’s Class of 2020, is bound for the United States Air Force Academy in the fall.

RockinghamNow annually pays tribute to Rockingham County’s Class of 2020 with contributed essays by outstanding seniors from every RCS high school. This week, we hear from two Rockingham Early College High School graduates. A stellar young woman who is blind and planning a future in cooking, describes her interest in dietitian work. And a determined young gent shares his plans for study at the United States Air Force Academy.

Jonathan Birmingham

My name is Jonathan Birmingham, but at this point you probably have read that already.

I am a 2020 graduate of Rockingham Early College High School. I have been appointed to the United States Air Force Academy where I currently plan to study in Aeronautical Engineering, commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, and hopefully proceed to train to become a pilot for the Air Force.

By the way, I could have just written those two sentences and been done. But no, because it cuts much deeper than that.

The USAFA is a school unlike any other, and is basically my dream school. But that does not discount the other schools that the majority of my peers are going to attend — places like UNC-Wilmington, UNC- Charlotte, Liberty University, North Carolina State University, or even Rockingham Community College. I see them to be on the same level.

As far as the college experience, NOBODY is better than anybody else, because they are equal in choosing an institution that can provide them education and higher learning.

I want to make that very clear to the reader: I am not better than you because of where I plan to go to college. I do highly respect those who take advantage of opportunity, and are willing to put forth enough work such that they can provide equally for themselves and those they love. That is all this world needs.

And once we start loving ourselves and other people, the world will become a better place.

A janitor has the same motivation to put food on the table at home as a tenured professor. It doesn’t matter where you go or what status you acquire academically, financially, or even socially. What matters is your attitude about it.

This is my statement: 1. Respect and be kind to everyone. You never know what kind of day they’re having. 2. Love yourself. Negativity can only enter your life if you allow it, and trust me, we can all get through even the most polarizing of times … because 3. We need each other. Someone very close to me once said, “call everyone a friend and you’ll never meet a stranger.”

Life has a funny way of getting you to interact with people, through school, jobs, etc... If we cannot agree to disagree and learn to get along, it does nothing but introduce negative influence, not only to you, but to others in your life as well.

Ytossie Graves

Hello, my name is Ytossie Graves. It’s pronounced why-toss-ee, Hawaiian, and sadly I do not know what it means. I am a 2020 graduate of Rockingham Early College High School.

These past four years of my life have been tough ones, especially now with the COVID-19 pandemic.

I never thought that I would be going to Johnson & Wales University with two years of college already under my belt to become a chef and registered dietitian with a private practice.

But here I am, and now I want to tell you how I got here.

The biggest challenge that I have faced my whole high school career was being legally blind. There were many things that I could not and cannot do, such as driving.

I was devastated when my eye doctor told me that I probably would never be able to drive, but I learned to think positively about disheartening situations like this. I spent my first two years of high school at Rockingham County High School. I’m glad I got to go there. I met some amazing teachers and counselors that helped me tremendously.

The teacher that stands out the most is my 10th–grade “Apparel and Textile Production 1” teacher, Mrs. Lance. She was a kind-hearted, but strict, woman. She was always someone I could talk to and her brownies were delicious. When I found out I was moving, Mrs. Lance was the one that helped to get into Rockingham Early College High School.

She is the reason why I am writing this article right now, and I am so thankful for her. Others are Mrs. Nall and Mrs. Lopez. Mrs. Nall helped me to finally accomplish my dream of playing the piano, and Mrs. Lopez helped me to realize how much I love different cultures and languages.

My last two years of high school were here at RECHS, and let me tell you, coming here was one of the best decisions of my life. This school helped me to find my passion, purpose, and maybe even myself.

It showed me that I love business and health, but I still enjoy math and science. I always knew I wanted to have my own business. The question was, in what?

I knew that I wanted to do something that helped others and have them tell me, “You saved my life.” I also wanted to have my own personal testimonies that I could share with them.

Then, when I took “Introduction to Health” my junior year, I couldn’t get out of my head that I loved the information that I was learning about! A career in health could definitely have someone tell me I saved their lives, and I personally struggle with my weight.

Around this time, as well, I read a book by Ted Dekker called “A.D.30” and met two amazing people named Devin and Shaun. “A.D.30” gave me hope, faith, and showed me love --three things I desperately needed at the time. I met Shaun first, he is my Sunday school teacher. He made me see both the Bible and science in a whole new light. He is the reason why my future career needed to involve something in the STEM field.

Then I met his wife, Devin, the “cake lady,” as some people call her. Well, to be honest, I heard about and tasted her baking first, then I met her. Devin is one of the main reasons why I am so interested in cooking and baking.

She is someone I look up to and I am very thankful that God sent someone as amazing as her and her husband to come into my life.

“Tasty,” a YouTube channel I watch, was the reason why I wanted to mix science and food together because on a few videos, the narrator said something along the lines of, “This happens because of science,” and I wanted to know what that science was.

At first, I did not know what I wanted to be, exactly, but I talked to my college advisors and with their help, I realized that registered dietitian checked all the necessary boxes.

I applied and got into Johnson & Wales University and Western Carolina University, which were my top two schools. And although it was a hard decision, I finally made up my mind to go to JWU. I got a few scholarships from them, including a Presidential Scholarship for $17,000 per year.

High school is not easy, and maybe it was because I took all honors high school classes. And I, along with two of my friends, had to finish college in two years instead of the four or five like everyone else.

There was laughing, crying, anger, seriousness, and many other emotions, but I met people and friends and had experiences that have changed my life for the better and made who I am today.

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