MCHS valedictorian will head to Harvard this fall

MCHS senior Audrey Moorehead will attend Harvard in the fall. She says Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of her personal heroes. “RBG is so special to me because I see myself in her,” she says. “Her
interest in such ‘mature’ topics for her age is eerily similar to my love of history and politics that I’ve had since I was seven.” (Photo Provided)

Moore County High School senior Audrey Moorehead sits at her sister’s softball game when she notices an email come through on her phone. It’s Cornell University, one of the three Ivy League schools she applied to earlier in the year. Suddenly she remembers it’s Ivy Day, the date when all the Ivy League schools announce their admissions decisions for regular decision, first-year applicants.

“I checked Cornell first, then Princeton, then checked Harvard last. Since I was rejected from Cornell and Princeton, and Harvard was supposed to be the hardest to get into, I wasn’t expecting to see the “Congratulations!” at the beginning of the letter. Naturally, I jumped out of my seat and ran over to show my mom, then showed my dad, then started running around telling friends and family.”

Audrey is the daughter of Director of Schools Chad Moorehead and MCHS Librarian Lisa Price Moorehead.

Dreaming big with the help of family and friends

Harvard is an idea that arrived around third grade.

“My friend, Caitlyn, says that we had a conversation in the third grade about me one day going to Harvard. I don’t really remember it, but it sounds like something we’d joke around about,” Audrey says. “I first got serious about the Ivy League around seventh grade when I first started seriously thinking about college.”

It was a big dream for a small town girl but one both family and teachers encouraged. Audrey credits her mother and her first grade teacher, Terry Davis, with seeing and cultivating her potential.

“My mother still says that she’s never known another person with the thirst for knowledge that I have. However, the first person outside my family [to see my potential] was probably my first grade teacher, Mrs. Terry Davis.

Audrey says Mrs. Davis recognized Audrey’s advanced reading abilities early and encouraged her to read ahead in the textbooks and read books well above her grade level.

“She was always pushing me to my limit in her class, making sure that I didn’t stagnate and my love of learning didn’t grow cold,” Audrey says. “If it weren’t for her, I know I never would have gotten this far. Of course, she is just one of the many teachers I’ve had who have pushed me and helped me reach this goal.”

Her love of reading led to a passion for the Constitution

In elementary school, the first history book Audrey remembers reading was Two Miserable Presidents – a middle school level book about the American Civil War. That book led to a love of Abraham Lincoln. By the eighth grade, she’d moved on the American Revolution and developed an interest in James Madison – a character of American history she discovered through the Hamilton musical. That piqued her interest in the founding fathers and ultimately the events leading up to the U.S. Constitution.

“Learning about the framing of the Constitution, and then about some of the court cases that began to shape the way it was interpreted, piqued my interest in such a fascinating, complicated subject,” she says.

There aren’t many high school seniors who listen to Supreme Court cases in their free time but Audrey Moorehead is one of them. That interest led her to one of her heroes, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Like Audrey, RBG developed an interest in complex subjects early in life. She wrote articles for her school newspaper about the Magna Carta and UN’s Declaration of Human Rights. Ginsberg’s drive led her to an undergraduate education at Cornell and then Harvard Law School and eventually the Supreme Court. Audrey says she’s someone who is “beyond inspiring.”

Sees education as a path to changing the world

Audrey seeks to make impactful change just like her hero. In fact, her Harvard admissions essay centers on the topics of forced child labor and the human trafficking’s of children. These are topic she’s been aware of since her early teens.

“When I was 12, I found my most pressing problem: the abuse of innocent children, be it by forced labor, sex trafficking, or any other horrific act of violence,” Audrey states in her essay. “I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I know what I want to do to solve this problem. I want to educate myself, become a lawyer, and dedicate myself to fighting for rights for mistreated children and for justice for their abusers.”

To Audrey, Harvard is the first step in accomplishing those goals. When we asked her if being from a small, rural town felt like an advantage or disadvantage in reaching this goal, she says it’s both. Audrey says the lack of AP classes at Moore County High School could have been an obstacle but she worked around it by taking every honors and dual enrollment course that came her way including some online course work. She also says that being from a small town – albeit a famous one – allows her to have a diverse voice and perspective.

“Harvard emphasizes all kinds of diversity at its schools, and I think being from a rural small town in the South offers me a unique experience that others don’t have,” she says.

Passion that leads to success

In every Harvard interview, there’s what’s called “the tip” – that moment when the interviewer hears that unique idea or trait that makes it a “yes.” For Audrey, she thinks that moment centers around her passion and unique perspective.

“I told my interviewer that I knew on the surface, my application probably looked weak compared to others, but what my application couldn’t show was that I was taking every opportunity given to me: every advanced class, every online course trial, every club I could handle, and I was even making more opportunities where they didn’t exist,” she says.

Tomorrow night, Audrey Moorehead will stand in front of her classmates, faculty, staff, her family, friends, and the community and talk about her journey. She says her valedictorian speech will revolve around the quality that has become most central to her belief system as of late: passion.

“I think this quality is what helped me get into Harvard, and I actually think it’s a quality that many of my classmates share,” Audrey says. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only daily newspaper in Lynchburg. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}