Local kid picked for National Young Scholars Program

by Abbie Bennett

WEDDINGTON – Raegan Burrell, 9, from Weddington Elementary School, will take part in a program for high-achieving elementary school students hosted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from July 15 to 20.

“The National Young Scholars Program provides students with the opportunity to engage in hands-on interactive learning, while challenging them in an intellectually stimulating environment outside of the regular classroom,” said Dr. Marguerite C. Regan, dean of academic affairs for the program, in a news release.

The program is split into specific areas of study, such as engineering, forensic science and medicine. Students engage in challenging coursework and are able to gain a greater sense of independence. The program closes with student-created projects joining leadership skills learned with discoveries in specific areas of study.

Raegan, a rising fifth-grader, chose engineering design as her area of curriculum focus.

“I was designing things in many ways throughout the year, like fashion, landscaping and paintings. So when I read all of the discovery strands, the words ‘engineering’ and ‘design’ caught my eye,” Raegan said. “I decided to go online and read more about it. Days went by and I thought hard about all of the strands. This one fit me perfectly.”
Raegan’s mother, Janel Burrell, agreed with her daughter’s choice of focus area, or ‘discovery strand.’

“She chose the engineering design curriculum because she wants to channel her creative energy,” she said. “This strand appeared to intrigue Raegan the most. She enjoys drawing, designing various items and has always expressed an interest in being able to create things and be unique.”

The NYSP targets outstanding third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students across the country, inviting those nominated to attend at local colleges and universities that volunteer to host the program. Raegan was nominated for the program by Sheri Sessoms at Weddington Elementary School.

Janel Burrell said her daughter was nominated for a variety of reasons.

“She is currently an honor roll student and has been for the past two years. She is a student in the Academically and Intellectually Gifted program and has been acknowledged by various teachers as possessing a level of maturity and independence well beyond her peer level.”

Reagan said Sessoms nominated her because of her leadership ability.

“She described my leadership skills and the way I am at school,” Raegan said. “So the program thought that I had the right kind of leadership and potential they needed to have at their program.”

Janel and her husband, Charles Burrell, chose to enroll Raegan in the residential program, allowing her to stay in a dorm room on the UNC at Chapel Hill campus during the program.

“This will give Raegan a chance to sample the ‘college experience’ at a young age and get a feel for what to expect when she goes off to college in nine years,” her mom said.

Raegan said she expects the program to introduce her to new concepts and new people.
“I am excited about meeting new people who may be just like me,” Raegan said. “The most important thing is to learn as much as I can about the subject. I expect to learn more things about taking part in life to be a leader and more of a shining star. But the most important thing to me is having a great time, to make memories and much, much more.”

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