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Three Roanoke Valley students were among the 344 residential graduates of the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham Saturday.

The Halifax County students are Atasha Louise Guerrero Merced and Allison Ann Powell, both of Roanoke Rapids Early College and the Northampton County student is Kaylee “Jordan” Clarissa Guy of KIPP Pride High.

 Students with high abilities in math and science began their studies at their local high school, then as sophomores applied to the selective public high school. 

Those accepted lived on the Durham campus in dormitories during their junior and senior years, taking high-level classes in not just science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but also in the humanities.

A second NCSSM campus opened this year in Morganton, N.C., with an inaugural class of 150 juniors, who this fall will return as seniors and become the first graduating class to study on that campus. Rising sophomores statewide may now apply for the residential program on either campus, or both, and/or to the NCSSM Online program. The state of North Carolina and private, philanthropic donors make all the programs possible at no cost to the students and their families for tuition, room, board, or books. 

“Class of 2023, each of you have been given a gift: the opportunity to attend, and graduate from, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics,” said commencement speaker Jabbar R. Bennett, a 1992 graduate of NCSSM who served this academic year as chair of NCSSM’s Board of Trustees. “You have taken full advantage of everything it has to offer, from rigorous courses to exciting mentoring and research opportunities, and real-world experiences outside of the classroom. The faculty and staff here are truly concerned about your academic, personal, professional, and social development, [and] my hope, is that you will pay this forward, as you pursue your next academic challenge, professional goals and personal achievements.”

Siani-Simone Ammons from Elm City delivered the student speech, mentioning nearby, off-campus Durham locations favored by students as she expressed her appreciation for her NCSSM experience. “NCSSM’s most plentiful resource is the community. I would love to thank the parents for being here, the champions who saw their babies dream of becoming scientists, mathematicians, astronauts, writers, historians, teachers, and nurturers of a more beautiful, immensely bright world,” Ammons said. “I would like to thank the teachers who witnessed that change and became mentors who spent hours grading and regrading physics, biology, chemistry, history, and English assignments. I would like to thank the staff, especially folks in the cafeteria who were never afraid to smile, and the security guards who constantly re-gifted me keys after keys. Thank you, to the community coordinators who planned hall events and listened to every heartbreak; thank you.” 

Each year the graduating class of NCSSM provides a concentrated snapshot of the intellect found throughout North Carolina’s schools. More than two-thirds of the state’s counties and every region in the state were represented by the graduating class, with the student body hailing from 178 rural, urban, and suburban high schools.

The school counts among its alumni scores of entrepreneurs, educators, physicians, researchers, teachers and some famous figures, such as NASA astronaut Christina Koch — who returned to Earth in February 2020 after setting the new record for continuous time in space by a woman aboard the International Space Station. She has since been selected to fly near the moon on one of NASA’s Artemis missions.

It was the 42nd graduating class of the Durham-based residential program.