For Powell, summer ‘vacation’ means math at Governor’s School
Casey Powell isn’t a year-round student yet, but she’s working on it.
Barely a month after finishing her junior year at Lenoir County Early College High School, she’s packing her bags for an adventure of nearly six weeks at the selective N.C. Governor’s School. About a week after Governor’s School ends, Powell will be back at Early College for her fourth and final year, which she expects to conclude with a high school diploma and an associate degree from Lenoir Community College.
That’s this year. Last year was much the same, except Powell spent a month of her so-called vacation at UNC-Charlotte’s Summer Ventures program, a state-supported program for academically talented students who may pursue careers based in science and mathematics.
Last summer’s away-from-home experience prepared the 17-year-old for this summer’s, when she’ll study math at the Governor’s School east campus at Meredith College. But it was the experience of her brother, a Governor’s School alumnus, that put her in mind to apply.
“My brother went about four years ago,” she said of Landon Powell, who focused on natural science at Governor’s School the summer before his senior year at Kinston High School. “That pretty much prompted me to apply. He mainly talked about the social aspect of it, not really the academics. He told me everybody there had the same mindset, that they were going there to learn.
“Everybody wants to learn and get better and expand their horizons.”
She was accepted on the strength of her grades and teacher recommendations and to the essays and responses to short-answer questions she submitted. She is one of four rising seniors from the school district attending Governor’s School, which accepts about 670 students each summer from some 1,800 nominations.
Held at the west campus at High Point University as well as Meredith’s east campus in Raleigh, N.C. Governor’s School offers instruction in 11 areas of academic or artistic emphasis, as well as a broader curriculum that integrates these areas.
For Powell, deciding to focus on math was a no-brainer.
“It’s interesting. It’s like a puzzle to me,” she said, “leading to a specific solution to a problem.”
At Summer Ventures, “we had to come up with our own research project, something that hasn’t been researched a lot in math,” she said. “I did mine on the Golden Ratio, which is considered this perfect ratio used in architecture and is seen in nature in multiple ways, and on fractals, which are pretty much endless visual patterns. I did mine specifically on the sunflower seed pattern and how the Golden Ratio applies to that.”
At Governor’s School, which opens Sunday, she expects to find answers to practical questions related to careers.
“I think I’ll get a broader vision of what math is like in the real world and the things to do with it, not just what it’s like in a classroom setting,” Powell said. “In jobs, I’m starting to lean toward things like engineering. I really want to do something with math.”
A product of Banks Elementary and Frink Middle schools, she is the daughter of John and Shannon Powell of Kinston. The Powells’ son, Landon, is currently a student at UNC.