Molly House and Greyson Whitaker are both 21, both Presidential scholars, and they’re gearing up to graduate in May and turn the page on one chapter of their lives and begin another.
Whitaker will go to law school; House will go into event planning.
You can expect they’ll succeed. In their time at HPU, they both have made an impact beyond campus by helping people like Henry, a 5-year-old with multiple sclerosis who barely says a word.
The two seniors have been named HPU’s Extraordinary Leaders for the month of January because of their work both inside and outside the classroom.
Whitaker is the SGA President, and House is the main organizer behind last month’s Hunger Banquet, an exercise she learned about in her study abroad.
House, a business administration major, does love to travel. And Whitaker does like watching the TV comedy, “Big Bang Theory.’’ As a math major, he’ll hear one of the show’s characters say something and think, “Oh dear, I relate to Sheldon in a way.’’
That’s just the beginning.
A Calling for Justice
Whitaker got an education in real life at the Union County jail.
He worked the visitation desk during high school. His dad, a captain in the sheriff’s department, got him the volunteer job to check people in when they came to visit a family member or friend behind bars.
He worked there for two years. So, he got to know the people who came – the mothers and fathers, the sons and daughters – and from his perch behind the desk, Whitaker saw the human side of North Carolina crime.
His father is now retired, a 30-year veteran of law enforcement. His mother is a longtime victim’s witness advocate in Union County’s district attorney office. They both taught Whitaker, the oldest of their two sons, the need for order and empathy.
Whitaker also learned that at HPU. He became a resident assistant at York Hall, a Student Justice on HPU’s Judicial Board, and when he was elected SGA President, he had the campus join the national effort to end sexual assaults on campus.
He helped bring the “It’s On Us’’ awareness campaign to HPU because he wanted his fellow students to understand the problem as well as re-emphasize the need to respect on another and make them feel safer in their collegiate home.
As a member of the Hayworth Chapel’s Board of Stewards, he has helped the Salvation Army bring Christmas to the needy families of High Point. Whitaker and other steward members bought everything from clothes to toys.
His buying trips made him remember what he saw at the Union County Jail. It also made him think about what wants to do next. In May, after three years at HPU, he’ll graduate a year early with a degree in mathematics and two minors in computer science and criminal justice.
After law school, Whitaker wants to become a state or federal prosecutor. A big dream. After HPU, Whitaker believes that can happen.
“High Point University has brought me out of my shell and opened me up,’’ Whitaker says. “The first time I heard Dr. Qubein speak during our freshmen seminar, he encouraged all of us to be extraordinary. Don’t settle for average.’’
A Holistic Education
House was an only child, a girl who grew up outside Orlando, Florida, and admits she suffered from homesickness during her first year of college. She was driving back to HPU after a break and wrestling with the idea of rushing Alpha Chi Omega when she saw it.
She was driving Penni, her red Volkswagen Jetta she got for her 16th birthday, when a car passed her somewhere in South Carolina with a bumper sticker that read: Alpha Chi Omega.
She never saw the car again.
“Oh my gosh,’’ she thought. “That’s a sign from the universe. I’ll give it a try.’’
That made all the difference.
She became one of the founding members of Alpha Chi Omega, and in the process, she learned the necessary skill of learning how to handle confrontation and conflict.
From there, she earned three scholarships, was named to the Dean’s List for six semesters and became one of HPU’s first Bonner Leaders, a national service program that connected the campus to non-profit organizations citywide.
With the Bonner Leader Program, she spent a semester as a junior at Macedonia Family Resource Center. She worked there six hours a week, and when the immigrant mothers came in to learn English, House tutored their children in everything.
House met the young faces of High Point. Like Henry, the 5-year-old with MS from Mexico. Or Saban, the 8-year-old boy with chubby cheeks from Sudan.
Last spring, House spent a semester abroad in Florence, Italy. She took four classes, lived a three-minute walk from Florence’s famous Gothic cathedral, the Duomo, and learned a new sense of fashion, the importance of a budget and the need for calmness in crisis.
In a presentation for a potential job, House wrote: “My passion for traveling strangely keeps me grounded as it allows me to truly appreciate where I came from and where I can go in life.’’
When she came back to campus, she incorporated what she discovered halfway around the world into a program for MLK Day to help people understand class and poverty.
Last month, she organized a Hunger Banquet in which everyone who came in got a green, orange or red card. The color of that card told them whether they were rich, poor or middle class and whether they’d get lasagna or a bag of chips for dinner.
For House, it was all about educating HPU on the struggle that some High Pointers face in feeding their families.
Like Whitaker, House discovered her bigger purpose at HPU.
“It’s molded me in every possible way,’’ she says. “ I know from friends who go to state schools that they’re involved in their major and their sororities, but really, there is no depth. But here, I got depth. I made an impact. No matter how big or small it is, that is what life is all about.’’