Robbie Williams, a rising senior at Memphis Academy of Health Sciences High School, left Memphis Monday for a five-week experience at Phillips Academy Summer Session in Andover, Mass. She is one of only two Memphis-area students accepted to attend the prestigious summer program.
Founded in April 1778, the boarding school is one of the oldest and most competitive in the country. Its alumni list reflects a who's who of American leadership, including William Clarence Mathews (1901), attorney to Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey; Presidents, George H.W. Bush (1942) and George W. Bush (1964); and George Bundy Smith (1955), the African-American judge whose landmark 2004 decision ended the death penalty in New York state.
Last week, Robbie and her mother, Kellie Williams, shared their thoughts on the opportunity and her future.
Bernal E. Smith II: So how are you? Are you excited?
Robbie Williams: Yes, very!
BES: Share with us how this opportunity came about for you.
RW: My guidance counselor recommended that I sign up for this program called Memphis Prep. In Memphis Prep, you interview and they take the best students from Memphis and send them to summer prep programs.
BES: What other things do you do as a part of Memphis Prep or is it just about going to summer prep schools?
RW: ACT Workshops, community service projects and more. They really prepare you for college. This was my first year being involved and it's obviously paying off.
BES: Who is your guidance counselor? It seems our schools need more counselors like her.
RW: Ms. Tara Powell, I've had her over the years as a teacher and she definitely cares about her students and expects a lot from us.
BES: How long have you been a student at MAHS?
RW: Since the 6th grade, so all of my middle school and high school years.
BES: What are your plans for college, what do you want to do?
RW: Well I definitely plan to go in to the medical field, possibly nursing school with a minor in journalism.
BES: Wow, journalism? Maybe you can come back and work with us here at TSD. I love to help young talent develop and find greater ways to share their views of the world.
Kellie Williams: She's a good writer too!
BES: So mom, what are your thoughts on this opportunity for Robbie?
KW: I'm very excited, very! Probably too emotional to even talk about it, but she's earned it.
BES: It's an outstanding opportunity not only for Robbie, but for MAHS. To have one of its students chosen to attend such a competitive program is a reflection of the great work they are doing with the students there.
KW: Absolutely, they have done a great job with Robbie and continue to help the students there learn and perform to the best of their abilities.
BES: Robbie, there is a rumor that you are on target to be the valedictorian of your class in 2014.
RW: Yes, that is true! (Big smile)
KW: Yes, that is not a rumor it is true! My baby is at the top of her class! (All laughing and smiling)
BES: So what is your GPA, if you don't mind sharing that with our readers?
RW: No, I don't! Without my dual enrollment classes added in it's a 4.2.
KW: We just got her final report card the other day. All A's!
BES: Wow, so nothing but A's and taking some college courses already?
RW: Yes, it's great that we get an opportunity to take college level courses that will count towards the credits we need to graduate (college).
BES: Outstanding! What is your favorite subject?
RW: Core subject would be English and the elective would be creative writing.
BES: What's your favorite thing about being a student at MAHS?
RW: My favorite thing is that it is very family-oriented and you know that they care about you. They really try to help you out. Even if you're struggling with something, they will make sure you get it. They don't just let students fall off.
BES: OK, I'm going to put you on the spot! Who is your favorite teacher?
RW: (Laughing) Well, I pretty much like all of my teachers. I don't really have a favorite!
BES: How about your principal, Mr. Alexander?
RW: ...He doesn't let us make excuses about anything.
BES: Any last things you want to share with our readers?
RW: I would just like to tell other students in and around Memphis that anything is possible as long as you focus and give your best effort every day.
BES: Robbie that's a great message in so many ways. A young person encouraging other students to get focused and pursue excellence but also demonstrating that it pays off. Walking it and talking it!
RW: Yes sir, that is right!