Haley McKeown takes up her regular spot at the tall table behind the wall of glass when a freshman named Hope walks up.
“Can you help me with my resume?” she asks sheepishly.
“Sure,” McKeown responds. “Hi. I’m Haley.”
McKeown has worked as a peer career advisor in HPU’s Office of Career and Professional Development since her junior year, and she helps students with everything that can get them noticed by an employer.
McKeown is now a senior, and on this particular Wednesday, she looks over Hope’s resume and starts asking questions. Together, they come up with phrases that draw out the distinctive talent Hope has.
McKeown has distinctive talent, too – and college officials and faculty have noticed. She has been selected as HPU’s Extraordinary Leader for March.
She does stand out. But not for one thing.
For many things.
McKeown’s Fire Inside
Julee Mitsler does know McKeown.
Mitsler, HPU’s associate director of admissions, met her when McKeown was a freshman. She was applying to become a University Ambassador when Mitsler remembers this effervescent teenager full of big plans.
On her application, in disciplined blue-ink script, she wrote about choosing HPU because of its personal touch. She felt HPU wanted her here because of the phone calls and the emails She wasn’t, as she wrote, “number 5081 in the freshmen class!”
“I would love nothing more than to show off our campus to prospective students and make them fall in love with High Point just as I did when I first visited,” she wrote.
Since then, Mitsler watched McKeown come into her own. McKeown has become a leader of campus organizations and her own class and has tackled along the way tough issues, full of emotion. She never shied away from any of that.
“She has this fire inside her, but she’ll never take the easiest path,” Mitsler says. “She’ll take whatever path that’ll get her where she wants to go.”
Ask McKeown about her future, and she won’t mince words. She is a broadcasting major from Raleigh, North Carolina, and one of her dreams is to be a sideline sports reporter.
Just like ESPN’s Samantha Ponder. She tells Hope as much.
“I would sort Skittles just to hang out with that woman,” McKeown says.
They both laugh. Then, they continue.
By the time Hope leaves 30 minutes later, her resume is ready.
The Harder Path Taken
McKeown does have drive.
She’s a member of Lambda Pi Eta, the communication honor society, and she has interned with the Atlantic Coast Conference as well as the Winston-Salem Dash, the minor league team 30 minutes from campus.
As a freshman, she printed up posters and fliers and knocked on doors when she ran against 10 other people for class president. She won.
Since then, she has been voted in as class president every year, and she and her classmates have packaged meals for Third World countries and recruited co-eds to cut at least eight inches of their hair to create wigs for cancer patients.
“I always tell myself that I would relive my hardest days and my most challenging days before I lived my easiest days,” she says. “You learn and grow so much working through those.”
She’s also been picked as HPU’s Sophomore Female of the Year and Junior Female of the Year. Then, last week during HPU’s Honors Day, she was named Senior Female of The Year and received several other awards, including the University Award for Leadership and the Joan Betsill Award from her Kappa Delta sorority.
McKeown has been a KD since her freshman year. She just finished her yearlong stint as its president. She still can recall Rush Day – and her exact words with everyone she met:
“I’m a twin. My sister goes to South Carolina. She’s a cheerleader.”
The Eye-Opening Discovery
Haley is younger than her twin sister, Taylor. By one minute.
They’ve shared much together – a bedroom, friends, dancing, soccer and cheerleading. They’re best friends, and they have cheered side by side for years.
One has never been without the other. Their friends have always noticed. So, when college time came, Taylor went to the University of South Carolina. Haley stayed instate.
“What are you going to do without Taylor?” people would ask her.
“We don’t talk about it,” Haley would always respond.
When the travel day to college came, Haley and her parents drove south and took Taylor first to Columbia, South Carolina, home of the university. Before they left campus, Haley broke down.
“I have never experienced anything on my own,” she told herself. “What am I going to do?”
But she learned. At HPU, she realized she could become “Haley” — not “Haley and Taylor” – and she discovered confidence she never thought she had. She learned she could be different than her twin sister.
Her professors and the HPU staff helped her discover that.
Now, as a University Ambassador, she’ll point to the statues on the Kester International Promenade during a campus tour and tell the families the quote from HPU President Dr. Nido Qubein.
“I tell them what Dr. Qubein told us, “In order to be great, you must walk side by side, and hand in hand with great people,’” she says. “And for me, that quote has everything to do with the people on campus.
“There are no words that can explain fully the gratitude I have for them.”