College classes have been the wind in the sail of goal-oriented Jackson Wilder as he positioned himself not only to get into a university, but to do so with maximum scholarship support. The dual-enrolled Washington High School senior will graduate from Beaufort County Community College in May just before he graduates from his high school in June. The free Career and College Promise program has meant that he could keep running cross-country, playing tennis, and swimming while getting to take college classes with a diverse population.
"In eighth grade, I wrote a list of goals,"
he says. "One of those goals was to be valedictorian of my class, and I'm currently number one. Another goal was to be a Park Scholar, and I ended up being a finalist for that."
The Park Scholarship is the most prestigious scholarship at N.C. State University. While he has not given a TED talk, he has scratched off goal after goal from his list.
"I didn't know where I wanted to be, but I knew I wanted to have the option to go wherever I wanted to go,"
he says. Wilder recites one of his mottos, "Who dares, wins."
As he was writing his goals in the eighth grade, his sister was applying to N.C. State and won a Centennial Scholarship, an honor that Wilder has now also earned.
"I saw the hard work it took,"
he says. "I saw her stay up until 3:00 a.m. I also saw the reward when you really work for something, when a scholarship comes or you have the opportunity to go to UNC, NC State or beyond, it means so much more, too."
His love of sailing and the water has saturated even his career goals.
"I'm always ambitious towards the water. My first word was boat. I've had my boating license since I was nine years old, and I've grown up on the Pamlico River. I'm currently a sailing instructor, and I've done that for three years, and I love that to death."
He has also received a Navy ROTC scholarship to Duke University. He would be happy to be a naval officer or study textiles at N.C. State to design sail cloth or composites for boat hulls.
"It's amazing. When you look around the world, even the boats in Hawai'i that are catching these grand marlins, where are their boats built? They're built in our backyard. They're built in Wanchese; in Morehead City; they're built here in Washington. I think the idea of going someplace like N.C. State and coming back here to the community and continuing that is appealing."
He is proud of his work as a sailing instructor at the Little Washington Sailing School. The school offers scholarships to expand accessibility to sailing, and it is one of only three schools in the country to offer adaptive sailing for people with disabilities.
While excelling in college courses, he has continued to play sports at Washington High School.
"The cross-country team hadn't gone to states in 24 years, and we were able to qualify for states this year. Our swim team qualified for states this year,"
he says. "It was cool to be part of two teams that qualified for states. I'm five seed in tennis and, so far, undefeated."
"The nice thing about the CCP program is that it allows you to be really academic and really focused on your studies while still having the flexibility to do the things that a normal high schooler gets to do,"
he says. "I can take seven classes, work hard in those, and make As in those, and come three o'clock, I'm going to head to swim practice or cross-country practice."
At Washington High School, Wilder has also set up a food pantry to help food-insecure students. As part of his Eagle Scout project, he installed-and now stocks-discreet pantries on the way to the buses. He has seen the impact that can happen when the community comes together.
That same collaboration of people from diverse backgrounds is part of what has made him passionate about the CCP program.
"One of the most rewarding things about Beaufort County Community College has been an expansion and a more realistic view of our community,"
he says. "At Washington High School, you see the same people every day. Beaufort is really representative of our community. I have friends from Pungo Christian Academy, Terra Ciea, and Mattamuskeet in Hyde County. I've had working moms in my class. They've shown me both the needs and the strengths of our community. The other rewarding piece was that I've had a similar experience with instructors. I've had instructors from more diverse backgrounds, some more academic, some less academic, that I've had the opportunity to make really rewarding connections with."
- Attila Nemecz
- Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator
- Beaufort County Community College
- 5337 U.S. Highway 264 East
- Washington, N.C. 27889
- Ph: 252-940-6387
- Cell: 252-940-8672