|PHOTO | HERBERT L. WHITE|
|Kelsey McDowell of Philip O. Berry Academy is The Charlotte Post Foundation’s Top Senior of the Year.|
Kelsey McDowell is an advocate and a scholar.
The Philip O. Berry Academy senior wants to be a bridge between African Americans and neonatal health care. She’s also an academic achiever who earned The Charlotte Post Foundation’s Senior of the Year recognition for her work in the classroom and community. As a result, McDowell earned a scholarship from the foundation and will be cited at the annual Top Senior recognition program May 20 at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church and The Post Best gala in October.
“She’s stellar,” said Berry Academy guidance counselor LaTisha Dixon, who has known McDowell since her freshman year. “She’s definitely a teacher’s dream to have in high school.”
McDowell is Berry’s Senior Class president, an all-conference volleyball player and ambassador to the Young Black Leadership Alliance. She also volunteers at Levine Children’s Hospital, which inspired her to pursue a career in nursing. McDowell is enrolling at UNC Chapel Hill in the fall with a goal of becoming a neonatal nurse.
“In the health care field, there are not a lot of minorities,” McDowell said, and when you think about minority women in the health care field, I feel like it’s my calling, it’s my mission to go into that profession as a minority woman who can relate to more people than the average white male can.”
McDowell also sees herself as an advocate for children’s health, which starts in the womb. As a nurse, she envisions herself as a conduit to help families understand the importance of healthy habits.
“I feel like health starts so early in life,” she said. “As we get older, we start to figure out ‘my diet really does make a difference, my exercise does make a difference,’” she said. “If I’m working in neonatal, I feel I can start that relationship early with the parents to let them know that these are the things you need to start doing with your baby that’ll set them up for a healthy life of great physical development, great mental development.”
McDowell, who is ranked second her class, has a 4.54 grade point average, a reflection of the example set by her parents, Billy McDowell and Erica McCullough to achieve academically.
“It was the way my parents raised me,” Kelsey McDowell said. “My parents are really big into education and from a young age, school was really never taxing for me. I didn’t feel like ‘oh, I’ve got to go to school today.’ I actually enjoy school, and I’m so glad my parents fed that into me so going to high school you have ups and downs with different classes, but what I’m learning now is going to set me up for that mission of going into health care and helping other people.”
As a freshman, McDowell flashed academic potential, but needed to engage the most rigorous courses in order to become the best scholar.
“At first, she needed to be motivated or challenged,” Dixon remembered, “because she didn’t necessarily want to take [advanced placement] classes, but after conversations with the types of school she was trying to get into, she finally understood she would have to take AP classes. She’s been successful in all her classes, she’s been accepted to every school she’s applied to and I can’t count the amount of scholarship money she’s currently receiving.”
McDowell credits her parents and friends with making her growth possible. They’ve encouraged academic growth, but more important, emphasize balancing books with involvement in the larger community.
“At Philip O. Berry and the people I surround myself with, being smart is something that we value,” she said. “Being smart gets you further in life and education isn’t something that you solely focus on. You can be educated in so many different areas.”