Miles Christopher Thomas is a Freedom High School (FHS) graduate who participated in the Students Taking a Renewed Interest in the Value of Their Education (STRIVE) mentorship program. The STRIVE program at FHS is run by the Rotary Club of Burke-Sunrise and is a mentorship and scholarship program that helps high school seniors achieve academic and personal success. Buddy Armour is Freedom's STRIVE Champion and Vice-Chair of the Board of Education and longtime education advocate through community and service work.
The group consists of 15-20 students and the top two with the highest academic improvement wins a $2,000 scholarship. Miles won a scholarship along with fellow STRIVE classmate, Ashanti DaMiya Surratt. Read her story HERE.
We met Miles in the fall of 2019 at Freedom High School when Work in Burke presented to the STRIVE group. Miles is going to be pursuing a degree in computer science at Western Piedmont Community College.
Like students across the country, the Covid-19 pandemic changed many things for Miles and we are proud of how they have pushed through the challenges it brings. We caught up with him virtually to highlight his success as a STRIVE scholarship recipient and find out what his plans are moving forward.
FHS graduation ceremony
Work in Burke: Miles, CONGRATULATIONS on being a STRIVE graduate AND a scholarship recipient! We’re so incredibly proud of you! What an achievement. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Were you born and raised in Burke County?
Miles: I am from North Carolina and I was raised in Burke County. Both my mom and dad were born and raised in Morganton and they attended Freedom High School. My dad has a degree in Audio Engineering and my mom has a degree in Early Childhood.
Work in Burke: What are your hobbies and who inspires you the most?
Miles: I can play bass and guitar! My brother [inspires me]. He is in the Army and inspires me to be the best I can be.
Work in Burke: You were a part of the STRIVE mentorship program. What was your favorite memory of STRIVE?
Miles: Definitely meeting new people and seeing friends.
Work in Burke: What life lessons did you learn from being a part of STRIVE?
Miles: I learn to never stop chasing my dreams.
Work in Burke: How has STRIVE changed or enhanced your life?
Miles: It gave me the little boost that I needed.
Work in Burke: Do you feel like being in STRIVE gave you more opportunities?
Miles: Yes - definitely.
Work in Burke: As someone who has been through the STRIVE mentorship program, what would you say to other up-and-coming high school students who may want to join STRIVE?
Miles: Good luck and wish them the best.
Work in Burke: Is there anything you would like to say to your fellow graduating class of 2020?
Miles: We made it. No Cap!
Work in Burke: What is your favorite memory at Freedom High School?
Miles: The cool pep rallies we had in the gym.
Work in Burke: How did you adjust to the 2020 school year ending early due to the COVID-19 pandemic? What were some of the challenges you faced with online learning?
Miles: I adjusted well and I was able to work full time and save money for college. Some of the challenges I faced with online learning was the motivation to get the work completed on time.
Work in Burke: Who were your mentors in high school? Is there anyone specific you would like to thank?
Miles: Mrs. Williams!
Work in Burke: Are you still planning to pursue computer science at Western Piedmont Community College and then transferring to NC State?
Miles: Yes, I am still pursuing a degree in computer science [at Western Piedmont first]. I want to major in cybersecurity at NC State afterward.
Work in Burke: Why did you choose Western Piedmont Community College?
Miles: It has classes that will help me further my knowledge and save money.
Work in Burke: Where do you hope to be in 10 years? Do you plan to live and work in Burke County?
Miles: In 10 years I see myself having my own business and living in a big city using the skills that I gained in college.
Work in Burke: Where are some of your favorite places to go to in Burke County and why?
Miles: Restaurants, parks, etc. Table Rock because I like to be outdoors and hike.
Work in Burke: Thank you so much for your time, Miles. Congratulations again and we cannot wait to see what what's around the corner for you!
The success of the STRIVE program at Freedom High School led to the expansion of the STRIVE model to other Burke County high schools. The program helps students prepare for post-graduation plans, develop a life-long love for learning, and covers a range of topics from studying habits to setting goals.
If you're interested in being a STRIVE champion, would like to donate money for scholarships, sponsor, or speak at a STRIVE event, please contact Tea Yang at [email protected]
If you are interested in WPCC's computer science program, click HERE for more information.