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No. 1 in her class, Carson’s Young conquers academics, pandemic challenges

CHINA GROVE – Kayla Young took the opposite road to some of her classmates.

She began the school year in-person, but moved to all-virtual classes to help her family.

Young has two younger siblings. The pandemic created a major shift in how often students were at home during the school day and the amount of child care available.

She started the year attending in-person, but moved all-online after a few days and stepped in to take on some of the parenting at home. Young started the semester ranked No. 1 in her class and expects to finish high school as valedictorian at Carson, the largest high school in Rowan-Salisbury Schools. Final grades are coming in this week.

Young said not being with her friends was difficult, and the classes were different, but she applied herself and persevered. She kept up with extracurriculars as well. She was a section leader in the marching band, treasurer in Key Club and said she still managed to be social.

Young said she had taken a few online classes before, but those classes were a far cry from daily Zoom sessions and no in-person contact.

“In person, the teacher is always there,” Young said. “You can just raise your hand and ask questions. Online you’re semi on your own.”

Young said the advanced placement classes she took this year were particularly difficult online, but in others she enjoyed being able to set her own pace.

Felecia Young, Kayla’s mom, said there were some days when Kayla would look after her brothers all day and work into the early morning hours to keep up with her studies.

“From a parent standpoint, we are so proud of her because those challenges she did overcome,” Felecia said. “She never complained about it. She just did what she had to do to support the family unit as a whole.”

Felecia, a math teacher at Knox Middle School, said she knows the past year has been a struggle for parents, but she praised the resilience of the students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kayla took a challenging course load as well. She took four classes through Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and two advanced placement courses. She said this was probably her most challenge course load out of all four years of high school.

“All those classes, in their own way, helped me,” Young said, adding she thinks she benefited from all of her courses from biology to art appreciation.

Kayla will attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this fall and intends to major in biology on a pre-med track. Her dream is to become a doctor. She is not set on a specialty yet, but she is considering obstetrics and gynecology.

Kayla said the she gravitated toward medicine at a young age because she loves science and the functioning of the human body. She also wants to help ensure higher representation of Black Americans in the medical profession. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, only 5% of doctors in the U.S. are Black compared to 13.4% of the total population.

“There’s not a lot of Black doctors out there, and I feel like we need more representation in that specialty,” Kayla said. “I always wanted to become a doctor so I can help folks just like me. … As my generation comes up and future generations come up, we need to spread awareness that it’s ok to go see a doctor when you need help.”

Chapel Hill has always been a dream for her and she thinks the school has the opportunities she is looking for in her field. She also plans to participate in organizations on campus and will march for the university’s marching band.

Right now, she is excited for graduation and reaching the goal she and her classmates have been working toward since kindergarten.

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