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Cumberland County Schools Standout Seniors 2022

For Kaitlyn Zuravel of Terry Sanford High, an inquiring mind wants to know

Avid researcher bound for Princeton encourages girls to take up STEM

Meet 2022 Standout Senior Kaitlin Zuravel from Terry Sanford High School
Cumberland County Schools

Since the age of 3, intense curiosity has fueled Kaitlyn Zuravel’s desire to find out how things work.

Ginger Zuravel, the mother of the Terry Sanford High School senior, fondly recalls her daughter playing outside with her pockets full of rocks. She was digging in the dirt and playing with bugs yet still wishing she could “fly like the birds.”

“When I was 5, I tied a safety rope around my waist and jumped off a ledge in my new flying contraption,” says Kaitlyn. “From this venture came lessons learned and rope burns up to my armpits.”

As a sixth-grader, the young scientist’s curiosity deepened when she persuaded 12 neighbors to repeatedly prick their fingers so she could monitor their blood glucose levels to see if the temperature of the carbohydrates they consumed in any way affected their levels.

And Kaitlyn’s passion for STEM has strengthened through the years.

“In high school, my quest for knowledge has led me to take 19 STEM courses,” says Kaitlyn. “Exposure to this breadth of STEM helped me find my true calling – chemistry and engineering.”

She also participated in STEM research for the North Carolina Science and Engineering Fair; worked as a research intern at Fayetteville State University; served as a STEM teaching assistant; and competed at numerous levels in the Science Olympiad. Kaitlyn is a three-time International Science & Engineering Fair finalist.

Her heavy involvement in the Girl Scouts has further stoked her interest in STEM and the need to work personally on closing the gender gap in the industry.

“With the International Fair lasting an entire week, I had sufficient time to ponder my future,” says Kaitlyn. “Was I ready to commit to a lifelong journey without female colleagues? That week proved to be a defining moment. I walked away with a new passion – attracting more girls to STEM.”

Kaitlyn has worked to design and lead STEM programs for girls of all ages so they can have open access to the equipment and resources needed for research and implementation. She helped develop a successful partnership between the North Carolina Coastal Pines Council of Girl Scouts and the North Carolina Science Fair Foundation.

While she enjoys “all things scientific research,” the 18-year-old has found time to compete on the Terry Sanford varsity swim and lacrosse teams, be a contributing writer for EducationNC and attend Snyder Memorial Baptist Church.

Kaitlyn has been offered scholarships to attend N.C. State University and Virginia Tech, but the graduate plans to attend Princeton University in the fall and major in chemical engineering. One day, she hopes to work for a cosmetics company and use her love of research to produce facial care products for people with sensitive skin.

When asked what sage advice she would give to an incoming high school student, she shared what she knows to be true from her early days of playing with bugs and devising flying contraptions.

“Embrace your curiosity,” says Kaitlyn. “It will help you discover your talents and your passion.”

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories about the Standout Seniors of 2022 as selected by Cumberland County Schools.

Fayetteville, Cumberland County, graduation, education, Terry Sanford High School