Tuesday, May 28
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AHS Student To Attend Harvard University

ASHEBORO NC – For the first time since 2008, an Asheboro High School graduate will be moving to Cambridge, MA to attend the prestigious Harvard University. 

Katherine Esponda wasn’t just accepted by Harvard but two other Ivy League schools, Columbia and Yale as well as Duke University. “When I learned I’d been accepted to Harvard, I felt like I was in a dream. It just didn’t seem real,” said Esponda. Esponda’s mom recorded her reaction as she learned of her acceptance.

“In that moment and now of course, I am so proud that I followed my heart.” She says she wants others to hear her story and to be encouraged. “I’ve worked really hard and I haven’t let fear of the unknown hold me back from pursuing my dreams. My hope is that my story will encourage others to push past their fears and embrace challenges. Even if you don’t succeed, you will always learn something from your experience,” she added. 

The daughter of Cuban immigrants, Esponda started in Asheboro City Schools in sixth grade, attending North Asheboro Middle School. Moving on to Asheboro High School she dually enrolled at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) and also attended and graduated from the Student L.I.F.T. program through the Asheboro/Randolph Chamber of Commerce. Her favorite courses included molecular genetics, neuroscience, organic chemistry, and biomedical engineering. In addition to her academic endeavors, she also played tenor saxophone in the Asheboro High School Band and is an active member of the Asheboro High School Health Sciences Academy and the school’s Key Club. In the community, she volunteered with the Salvation Army, the BigSweep event, and tutored elementary-age students. 

Photo provided by Esponda family

Her interest in science has led her to pursue a degree in Neuroscience. “In five years, my plan is to be in medical school. In 10 years, I plan to be working as a doctor in the field of internal medicine, primarily with individuals in underserved communities.” 

Esponda says thanks to encouragement from her mom, she focused on what could be rather than what was. “So often we, young people specifically, choose to follow the crowd and not be true to ourselves. It’s an easy trap to fall into. My mom has always told me that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. It was because of her that I looked into the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. I was very nervous about the workload, but her encouragement and support helped me to believe in myself. Everyone has a spark inside them and we all need someone who tells us that we ‘can’. And that even if we fail, we are still worthy of love, support, and respect,” said Katherine.

Described by her teachers as extremely bright, incredibly determined, and most importantly, unequivocally humble. Lead Advanced Placement™ teacher, Ms. Misty Hildreth, says “What has been most impressive about Katherine, along with her focus and determination, is her compassion for others. Conversations about her academic success quickly turn to how she wants to share her experiences with students who are younger so they grasp the importance of planning early to reach their goals. As a young adult, Katherine already realizes that successes in life are not impactful if the journey to reach them can’t be shared to help and encourage others.”

Katherine says she wishes to thank her family and the incredible teachers at Asheboro High School who have believed in her over the past four years. “All my teachers have made my experience at Asheboro High School memorable. They have all been amazing…Ms. Fisher, Mr. Reeder, Mr. Homiller, Mr. Horsley, Ms. Hildreth, Ms. Cortez, Ms. Morton, Ms. Robbins, Ms. Dozier, Mr. Powell…I could go on and on,” she added. 

Esponda is set to graduate this Thursday, June 3rd, 2021. This summer she will vacation in Hilton Head, SC with several other AHS graduates, then she is planning to spend time with friends and family, and work at Asheboro Popcorn Co. to save a few extra dollars to decorate her dorm room. Harvard University will welcome Katherine this fall on a full-ride scholarship, plus an additional $2,000 a year for living expenses.