Durham Tech student earns prestigious Park Scholarship, headed to NC State

Grace Baucom and her dad were attending a study abroad information session in the Talley Student Union on NC State’s campus when she got the call.

“I was crying, it was unbelievable,” said 18-year-old Baucom, a student at Durham Tech. “My dad and I were absolutely freaking out.”

A representative from NC State’s Park Scholarship Program was on the other end, congratulating Baucom for becoming one of only 35 recipients of the prestigious, four-year scholarship. The Park Scholarship is awarded on the basis of outstanding accomplishments and potential in scholarship, leadership, service and character.

“We had to run and find a room to FaceTime my mom and little sister. My family and I really went through this together, so it was a journey for all of us,” Baucom said. “We were all crying. It was so special.”

Baucom will graduate in May 2018 with both a high school diploma from Middle College High School at Durham Tech and an Associate in Science degree from Durham Tech. Middle College High School is a high school within Durham Public Schools that provides students with an opportunity to simultaneously earn high school and college credits.

“I’ve always been very intentional about my education decisions and where I want to go, so when I found out about Middle College, I was excited about the opportunity to challenge myself with college classes,” Baucom said. “Durham Tech has really been a launch pad for me. It taught me how to be a college student, be proactive, take initiative, be independent, and take pride in my choices. Taking almost exclusively college classes was an adjustment, but I’m excited to have gotten a head start on those learning skills and be able to dive in at NC State.”

NC State and the Park Scholarship have been a top college choice for Baucom since she attended a two-day leadership conference at the Raleigh campus in the 9th grade.

“I absolutely loved the experience. We did workshops on leadership, communication and professionalism while simultaneously working in small groups to create prototypes of service projects to implement in our community,” Baucom said. “It was really a taste of what the Park Scholarship is all about. It was love at first sight.”

Baucom started the application process in September 2017. Her phone rang inside Talley Student Union in February.

Baucom will double major in Agroecology and Extension Education while attending NC State and is keeping her career options open. She’s considering becoming an Extension Agent through NC Cooperative Extension, an Education Outreach Coordinator with a non-profit organization, or possibly owning her own farm that is environmentally and educationally focused.

“I’m very interested in all things sustainability,” Baucom said. “But my passion is sustainable agriculture, which combines my love for the environment and my interest in making the world a greener place. Sharing my love for a green earth and making sure everyone has access to healthy food is what it’s all about for me.”

Baucom says her motivation stems from her desire to make the world a better place.

“My life’s theme is service. I love to volunteer and give back, it’s defined my high school experience and my life,” Baucom said. “Helping others is really who I am. I also think about the bigger purpose. It’s not just about getting an A in the class, but think about what it’s teaching you and how that can be applied later. Not just be a president of a club, but be a good leader and use those skills to make a positive impact in the community.”