First in the family to go to college

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 7, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
MOUNT ULLA — Moving from Queens, N.Y,. to Augusta, Ga., wasn’t a stretch for Royale Nichols since both are large cities.
But the move from Augusta to Salisbury was a bit of culture shock.
When he came to West Rowan High School as a junior, he admits it took a while to get adjusted.
“I was used to the city life so coming to the country wasn’t that easy,” he said.
But his guidance counselor, Arnethia J. Alexander, and teachers helped him get acclimated to his new surroundings.
“They made me feel at home,” he said. “They told me that if I stay focused and do the right thing, everything else will fall into place.”
Nichols took that advice and before long he was involved in peer tutoring, Tru Club, Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), treasurer of the Junior Civitans and a volunteer with the American Red Cross and Special Olympics.
“He’s very well-rounded,” Alexander said. “As a young person he is very respectful and respectable … he has the admiration of both his peers and adults.”
Nichols will graduate Saturday and move on to be the first person in his family to attend college.
In the fall, he’ll attend Western Carolina University, where he’ll study biology with plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine.
“I’m finally here,” he said. “Everything I’ve worked so hard for is finally here.”
Although Nichols is excited about his future, he said it’s bittersweet without his mother, Phoebe Nichols, by his side. She died of sickle cell anemia when he was 2 years old.
“There’s always an empty space in my heart for her,” he said.
After his mother passed, Nichols moved in with his grandmother, Leslie Nichols.
“I learned everything from my grandmother,” he said. “She stepped in and played a crucial role in my development from a boy to a young man.
“She’s behind me 100 percent.”
Alexander said Nichols has a bright future.
“He’s going places,” she said. “I am very proud of him.
“If I had a son, I would want him to be like Royale.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.