GRADUATION 2022 – Gray Stone – Ariel Vang

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Gray Stone Day students, like most high schools, have many outstanding students in each graduating class.

One student, however, has worked her way to a university in the Ivy League, considered being among the elite educational institutions in the United States.

Ariel Vang, a 2022 Gray Stone grad, will travel to the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York in the fall to attend Cornell University.

While at Gray Stone, Vang became an AP Capstone Scholar, meaning she earned a 3 or higher in AP Scholar and Research classes along with four additional AP exams.

She was also a member of National Honor Society (NHS) and Spanish NHS, along with having played travel and beach volleyball for three seasons. Vang also played volleyball for the Knights her senior year as the team went 18-5 overall.

Regarding Gray Stone, Vang said she saw it “as a place where students could thrive not only inside the classroom but outside the classroom. It was a place where students weren’t only required to answer questions, but ask their own questions of the teachers.”

Sarah Ince, counselor for Gray Stone, described her as “a treasure,” adding, “she is just getting started. Rarely have I encountered a student who truly sees the connection between interdisciplinary relationships and the value of objective research,” who also “demonstrates authentic curiosity and genuine empathy.”

Ince noted, Vang lived “with one foot in an intentionally closed Hmong community and the other in a progressive household that emphasizes being extraordinary academically and athletically. Ariel has balanced the demands on her time and energy with grace and fortitude.”

Balancing between the two worlds, Vang said, “me being my Hmong self in my American life but also being my American self in my Hmong family … I stay to true to both sides of myself.”

She added students who go to Gray Stone “are very diverse, the amount of personalities that go there … we all mix together and gel into one big school.”

The school’s counselor added Vang’s “superpowers are observation, curiosity and empathy.”

Asking questions of teachers and learning life lessons, Vang said, displayed her observation while a student at Gray Stone.

“I was just very curious about the world and I wanted to see what I could do to impact and help the world,” Vang said. “So at Gray Stone, it was, ‘How can I help Gray Stone? What ways can I help the students at Gray Stone?’”

She has seven cousins and a younger sister attending Gray Stone, and previously had an older sister attend the school.

Vang showed empathy for her family at school, she said.

“I saw a lot of times at Gray Stone how they struggled … not just with academics, but with confidence,” she said. “Gray Stone has a pretty competitive drive in academics.”

Ince said Vang can “compete at a national level, smashing a volleyball in an opponent’s face” and also “regale rapt audiences with stories about her family lineage and Hmong culture. I learn something new every time we speak.”

She also added Vang has the drive, resilience and curiosity to be at an Ivy League school.

Gray Stone Chief Administrative Officer Helen Nance said one of Vang’s outstanding character traits is her work ethic.

“You have to put in so much to be accepted at that level of institution,” Nance said of Cornell.

Vang said her parents were very happy when she opened her acceptance letter to Cornell, saying “my mom was actually next to me … we were crying and so happy together.”

Vang’s goal is to go to medical school and work in pediatrics.

“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” she said, adding her parents told her when she was 5 or 6 years old if she wanted to help others, she needed to have a good education.

As she grew up and saw her own pediatrician help herself and others, Vang said, those experiences factored into her decision to want to be a pediatrician.

Vang credits Gray Stone for helping propel her into the Ivy League, noting “how much help they gave me personally and how much they care about their students. They want to help each individual student and guide their own path to a successful life, and sometimes that may not mean going to college.”

She said her guidance counselor said “she wasn’t just a college counselor. She was a life counselor. She would help students who didn’t want to attend college … Gray Stone really helps each individual student.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored four times by the North Carolina Press Association.

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