Asheboro High School Senior, Katherine Esponda, can’t wait to graduate as an Asheboro Blue Comet alongside her peers on Thursday, June 3. She loves hanging out with her friends, eating good food, and enjoying a premium cup of coffee. She is your typical teenage girl and she will be attending Harvard University in the fall.
For the first time since 2008, an AHS graduate will move to Cambridge, MA to continue her education. Esponda says she plans to major in Neuroscience and pursue a pre-med track so that she may become an internal medicine physician.
“When I learned I’d been accepted to Harvard, I felt like I was in a dream. It just didn’t seem real,” said Esponda. Her mom recorded her reaction as she learned of her acceptance to not just one Ivy League school, but three including Columbia, Harvard, and Yale Universities. “I was absolutely elated,” she said. “In that moment and now of course, I am so proud that I followed my heart.” She says she wants others to hear her story and to be encouraged. “I’ve worked really hard and I haven’t let fear of the unknown hold me back from pursuing my dreams. My hope is that my story will encourage others to push past their fears and embrace challenges. Even if you don’t succeed, you will always learn something from your experience,” she added.
Let’s be real - Katherine Esponda is not typical. She is extremely bright, incredibly determined, and most importantly, unequivocally humble. She is the daughter of Cuban immigrants. She is dual enrolled at AHS and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM). Some of her favorite courses included molecular genetics, neuroscience, organic chemistry, and biomedical engineering. In addition to her rigorous coursework, she plays tenor saxophone in the AHS Band and is an active member of the AHS Health Sciences Academy and the school’s Key Club. Across the community, she has volunteered with the Salvation Army, the BigSweep event, and tutored elementary-age students. She is also a graduate of the Student L.I.F.T. program through the Asheboro/Randolph Chamber of Commerce.
Katherine describes herself as determined and thoughtful. She started in Asheboro City Schools in sixth grade, attending North Asheboro Middle School. As a young student in a new school, she quickly learned that fear can either extinguish or expand opportunities. Thanks to encouragement from her mom, she focused on what could be rather than what was. “So often we, young people specifically, choose to follow the crowd and not be true to ourselves. It’s an easy trap to fall into. My mom has always told me that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. It was because of her that I looked into the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. I was very nervous about the workload, but her encouragement and support helped me to believe in myself. Everyone has a spark inside them and we all need someone who tells us that we ‘can’. And that even if we fail, we are still worthy of love, support, and respect,” said Katherine.
Her interest in science has led her to pursue a degree in Neuroscience. “In five years, my plan is to be in medical school. In 10 years, I plan to be working as a doctor in the field of internal medicine, primarily with individuals in underserved communities.” Katherine is also bilingual which she believes will be a great asset as she pursues this goal.
Harvard University welcomes Katherine on a full-ride scholarship, plus an additional $2,000 a year for living expenses. Katherine says she wishes to thank her family and the incredible teachers at Asheboro High School who have believed in her over the past four years. “All my teachers have made my experience at Asheboro High School memorable. They have all been amazing...Ms. Fisher, Mr. Reeder, Mr. Homiller, Mr. Horsley, Ms. Hildreth, Ms. Cortez, Ms. Morton, Ms. Robbins, Ms. Dozier, Mr. Powell...I could go on and on,” she added.
Lead Advanced Placement™ teacher, Ms. Misty Hildreth, says “What has been most impressive about Katherine, along with her focus and determination, is her compassion for others. Conversations about her academic success quickly turn to how she wants to share her experiences with students who are younger so they grasp the importance of planning early to reach their goals. As a young adult, Katherine already realizes that successes in life are not impactful if the journey to reach them can't be shared to help and encourage others.”
While you might think her greatest accomplishment was being accepted into Harvard, Katherine says she is most proud of her work with the AHS Health Sciences Academy. “One day, my teacher, Ms. Rita Morton, asked our class how many of us had first aid kits in our cars. The majority of students responded they didn’t have them and had honestly never even thought to keep them on hand. At that point, I decided to make first aid kits as the final project for the Student L.I.F.T. program. I made 100 first aid kits and distributed them to the Health Sciences Academy and my peers in the L.I.F.T. program.”
As she looks to the future, Katherine says she is most looking forward to experiencing new things and meeting new people. This summer she will vacation in Hilton Head, SC with several other AHS graduates, then she is planning to spend time with friends and family, and work at Asheboro Popcorn Co. to save a few extra dollars to decorate her dorm room.
Asheboro City Schools wishes to extend a special congratulations to Ms. Esponda on this great achievement. “Katherine is an outstanding student and we couldn’t be more proud of her. We are confident in her abilities and we look forward to hearing the wonderful things she accomplishes at Harvard University and beyond,” said Dr. Aaron Woody, Superintendent for Asheboro City Schools.