Benjamin Ashley ’23

Benjamin Ashley ’23

Sept. 2022

Hometown: Durham, NC

Home High School: Jordan High School

What's your favorite part of your job as an Online Ambassador?
I love being able to help prospective students explore the possibilities that NCSSM has to offer. I know the Online program met many of my needs for academic growth and success, and the fact that I get to assist incoming students with the same journey is very exciting for me!

What's the biggest challenge you've encountered in the Online program?
In the Online program, I think the biggest challenge has been ensuring that NCSSM classes and the classes that I take at my home high school don't outweigh each other. I noticed that at some points, I would focus on one set of classes more than the other, which caused me to learn less in the classes that I didn't prioritize.

How have you met that challenge?
Allocating time weekly for each class in my schedule, including both NCSSM classes and those that I took at my home high school helped me to take the appropriate amount of time I needed in each class to understand all of the content I was learning. Once I switched to this style of structured schedule, I noticed I was learning more, procrastinating less, and completing my work more efficiently in every class I took.

What's an “aha” moment you've experienced in one of your Online classes?
The "aha" moment that I recall the best happened in Research Experience in Chemistry last Spring. We were tasked with the creation of silver nanoparticles that had limited environmental impact, since the traditional method for creating them caused a relatively large amount of pollution. Initially, the prospect of creating nanoparticles from scratch sounded pretty intimidating. However, once we read multiple research papers to establish a background for the project, this Herculean task seemed much more achievable. I remember reading the first paper on silver nanoparticle creation and thinking "Oh, this is much easier than I thought it would be!" The process was still challenging, but the "aha" moment I had showed me that my mental preconceptions were almost as much of an obstacle as the experiment itself, and I've since used that moment to keep my cool if I'm faced with another seemingly impossible task.

What are two of your greatest interests or passions?
Two of the things that I am most passionate about are environmentalism and baseball. At the start of high school, I began to learn more about the environmental phenomena that are currently threatening the planet. This quickly drew my attention, and I knew I wanted to play a role in helping to solve the world's environmental challenges. As for baseball, I've played the sport since I was three years old and love it with all my heart. I think if I had to pick a job that wasn't related to chemistry or environmental science, it would be to play baseball.

If you had one year of freedom, what would you want to do?
In my year of freedom, I would probably travel the country to visit many of the National Parks, especially those out West. I would also visit many of my relatives up in New York and Maine, but the largest accomplishment I would want to achieve in my year of freedom would be hiking the Appalachian Trail. It's something that I have on my bucket list, and the prospect of taking a couple of friends on a 5-month hike together sounds exciting to me.

What are you looking forward to in the coming school year?
In this upcoming year, I'm especially excited to be taking Honors Computational Chemistry with Mr. Gotwals. I've heard from many people -- both current students and alumni -- that a Gotwals course is essential to the NCSSM experience and I'm glad to be taking part in this unofficial tradition.

What words of advice or wisdom do you have for Online students?
As you enter NCSSM and the Online program, there's a chance that you might feel that your admission into NCSSM was just luck or that everyone seems smarter/more prepared than you. Trust me, that's not the case. Every one of my classmates that I've talked to in my time at NCSSM has expressed a similar feeling at some point. Your acceptance wasn't an accident; it means that many people at NCSSM believe you can make a difference in this community and beyond with the talent and growth that you bring to the table. Imposter syndrome is something that you can't necessarily get rid of, but know that you're not the only one struggling with it and that you do deserve to be here.

Why should prospective students and their families consider NCSSM Online?
NCSSM Online is an excellent complement to taking classes at your home high school. It offers opportunities and education that can't be found in any other high school in North Carolina, and you can pursue it all from your own home. Through NCSSM Online, you'll meet some of the brightest people you'll ever know from across the state. Without NCSSM Online, I would have never met many of the friends I've made in the past year.