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Cumberland County Schools Standout Seniors 2022

‘Never give up,’ says valedictorian Katie Royal of Westover High

Teachers, school staff credited with helping graduate overcome challenges

Meet 2022 Standout Senior Katie Royal from Westover High School

For people who need to be reminded that they control their own future, Westover High School senior Katie Royal’s story of tenacity will definitely help them remember.

The second of four children, Katie has been a ward of the state for two years amid a global pandemic. In the face of adversity, she has maintained ownership of her own destiny and attitude.

“I want to be remembered for helping people throughout my life,” Katie says. “I’m most proud of my academic perseverance and dedication.”

Although she started her freshman year at another school, she transferred to Westover and immediately felt at home. She credits the availability and approachability of the staff and faculty for the ease of her transition.

“I feel like the staff at Westover is always there for you, no matter what the situation,” says Katie. “It doesn’t have to be school-related. If they can help, they will. This goes for all the staff — custodians, lunch ladies, administration, counselors, teachers. They are always there, whether it be a smile or a helping hand.”

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Katie, who was the valedictorian of her class, says it is apparent at her school that staff members are not there just to collect a paycheck. They show up every day because they care about the students. One teacher in particular, Julia Little, made a lasting impression on her. Little is a science teacher who taught Katie in several classes.

While teachers and staff like Little showed her how to go above and beyond for others, Katie understands that the choice to work hard and apply herself is hers to make — and hers alone.

“Dr. Little taught me that perseverance can get you a long way, and you should never give up. It’s up to you,” says Katie.

The teachers’ willingness to listen and help others inspired Katie to serve her fellow students as a peer helper and tutor. Katie also worked as a student assistant in the Westover library.

“Katie has always been exceptionally helpful,” says Assistant Principal Kristle Rouse. “Despite everything she has gone through, she is at the top of her class.”

Katie was not intimidated by an advanced course or a heavy workload. While other students scoffed at the idea of homework and essays over the weekend, she appreciated how those challenges would better prepare her for college years and life beyond the classroom. Her dedication to academic excellence and positive attitude paid off and earned a Presidential Scholarship.

Katie’s advice to future students is to use the resources available to them and ask for help when needed.

“Don’t be scared to ask questions,” she says. “Everyone, at some point when they learn something, needs help. You can’t gain knowledge or accomplish anything if you don’t ask.”

High school graduation does not mark the end of Katie’s education journey. She has been accepted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and will pursue a four-year degree in the field of peace, war and defense. That isn’t her ‘finish line’ either: After earning her undergraduate degree, she intends to continue her education at UNC’s School of Law.

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

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Fayetteville, Cumberland County, graduation, education, Westover High School