June 9, 2016
When Richard Marshall starts classes at N.C. State in August, he officially will become the first member of his family to matriculate at a college.
But, in reality, that milestone already has been achieved.
He’ll enter State with 58 college credit hours, all accrued on the N.C. State campus. That college experience is an integral part of the accelerated model at Wake STEM Early College High School, which just graduated its first class.
Richard was co-valedictorian, making straight A’s throughout his five years of high school. (All Wake STEM students take an extra year of high school to accommodate college courses in addition to high school courses required for graduation.)
He applied for and received a full scholarship to N.C. State through the competitive Goodnight Scholars Program.
“Richard has been a quiet leader in his class since he arrived, oftentimes challenging himself and his peers through his cooperative group work, while always striving to do his best,” Principal David Schwenker says.
“His calm demeanor and positive outlook allowed him to conquer any challenge set before him, be it in his high school class while working in a group, or in his college class being challenged by his professors and college-aged peers. All future students in Wake STEM ECHS owe Richard and his classmates high honors and respect for all they have done to shape the path of our school.”
‘The best decision’
Richard wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for his parents, Richard and Adrianne, who he cites as his main source of inspiration.
He attended Swift Creek Elementary School and then Dillard Drive Middle School. Wake STEM Early College was set to open just as he was a rising freshman. A guidance counselor suggested the school to Richard’s mom and dad – a unit secretary at Rex Hospital and an electrician, respectively.
They loved the idea. Him? Not so much. “My parents kind of forced me to go,” Richard admits now. “I didn’t really want to go at the time, leave all my friends. But it was the best decision.”
His mother, Adrianne, says it wasn’t a negotiation. “We were very excited to hear about the new school,” she says. “We told him, ‘Your friends will still be here after school. You’re not going to miss this opportunity. So too bad.’”
‘Really, really good’
“I was completely alone at first,” Richard says. “But I got over it pretty quickly once I came to the school.”
He found kindred spirits, bound by their insatiable curiosity about the tech world.
It’s a good thing, too. Wake STEM Early College is the kind of place where you have to love the work to succeed.
“I did have to work hard at my school,” Richard says. “We had a lot of projects, and they weren’t simple assignments. They were complex.
“Our teachers were really, really good,” he continues. “They all knew us well, so learning was a really personal thing. They would pair us up in groups based on our skills, who would complement each other - one artist, one writer, one person good with computers.”
Richard says he made a few B’s in middle school but accepted the challenge of his new high school and pushed himself to excel in every class.
“Richard entered with the same apprehensions as his fellow classmates,” Principal Schwenker says. “But he was able to see the benefit of the program, understand the need for flexibility and determination, and use the opportunities to set himself apart.”
The school gets a ringing endorsement from Richard’s mother, Adrianne.
“I recommend that anyone who has good grades and potential should apply,” she says. “It’s a really great opportunity.
“He has made me so proud,” Adrianne says of her son. “I’m very proud of the work he has done and just being steadfast. Me and his dad both.”
There were the nights up until 3 a.m. to complete a project. But Richard did make time for other pursuits.
Notably, he has used his tech savvy to help others. Through Raleigh Digital Connectors, he has taught computer skills to young people and seniors at Chavis Community Center, the Boys and Girls Club, Walnut Terrace Apartments and elsewhere.
He’s worked at Carlie C’s grocery store for two years. And, for the second summer in a row, he’s interning at Fidelity Investments.
Wake STEM Early College requires students to obtain internships to get real-world experience.
Fidelity was a solid choice, though Richard accepted that position with few expectations, thinking that ultimately he would want to pursue a career in gaming.
But he was placed on Fidelity’s database development team, and found he was intrigued by the importance and complexity of data management. “It’s essential for any business,” Richard says.
That he was asked back for a second summer speaks to Fidelity’s confidence in him.
Richard can see himself working for Fidelity after he leaves school but isn’t certain of his career path.
For that matter, neither is he certain of his academic path. The Goodnight Scholarship pays for four years. Richard has enough credit hours to graduate with a bachelor’s in less than two. He may put the money toward another bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree.
He’s happy to have options, and happy to have a different N.C. State experience.
“I’m looking forward to living on campus, having a social life,” Richard says. “The academic aspects I’m already used to.”
Richard Thelis Lewis Marshall
High School: Wake STEM Early College High School
College: N.C. State University
Hobbies: Video games and reading science fiction. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is his favorite book.
Other Work: Intern at Fidelity Investments; employee at Carlie C’s grocery store; volunteer through Raleigh Digital Connectors; in-home tech support for his parents. “I’m always, like, ‘Richard come here, what is wrong with this computer?’” says his mother, Adrianne, who is happy to have a computer whiz under her roof. “There are intricate things he can just solve. We had an older computer, and I could not figure out how to get it to connect to the Internet. He came right in and did some clicking and clicking. Next thing you know, it’s fixed.”