Wesley Yarborough, a senior at Valley Fellowship Christian Academy, loses count when he starts naming off his accomplishments. He’s humble and polite, a nice change of pace from the rowdy teenagers we see on TV. In addition to his high ACT score and handful of athletic accolades for his basketball skills, the 17-year-old was chosen for special programs at Emory University, Rice University and Redstone Arsenal.
His list of potential colleges is intimidating at best—he’s been accepted to Rice and Vanderbilt, both of which gave him hefty scholarships, but he’s waiting to hear back from Princeton, Harvard and Dartmouth. Wherever he ends up, Wesley plans on inspiring the campus around him.
“My goal is to make the most impact wherever I am,” Wesley said.
It was his time at Valley Fellowship Christian Academy that shaped Wesley into that godly leader. The school focuses on high academic standards, combined with character and leadership development. A family friend recommended the school when Wesley was in fourth grade. When his mother checked it out and discovered their high standards for spiritual development and academics, she immediately enrolled him.
College is scary for everyone. Wesley will be going from a small school to a large university. He’s ready, though. The teen is more self-aware than most adults.
“I believe just staying myself and knowing who I am, which is, I guess, nerdy at times but also pretty cool at times,” Wesley said. “So I fall within that middle, where I’m not all the way nerdy … and to always remember my faith, of course, wherever I go.”
Valley Fellowship administrators have noticed Wesley’s motivation as well. Valley Fellowship’s upper school principal, Angela Isley, has known Wesley since he was in elementary school.
“He is very self-motivated,” Angela said. “He knows what his goals are, and I’ve seen him all the way up through his senior year not waiver, even in his faith and even with peer pressure. He’s committed to higher education, and he’s been committed to higher education since an early age. He’s well-rounded. He doesn’t give himself enough credit.”
It was Ben Carson’s book, “Gifted Hands,” that inspired Wesley to pursue a career in cardiology. While Carson works in neurology, Wesley liked the idea of saving lives.
“It just interests me to go into that field and perform surgery on those who suffer from heart attacks and other ailments with the cardiovascular muscles,” he said.
Last summer, Wesley went to Emory University for a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) summer program. His focus was on the medical side of things since he wants to go into biomedical engineering for his undergraduate work before heading off to medical school.
Wherever Wesley ends up going to college, he knows he wants to change the student body for the better.
“I believe I want to leave a legacy which is positive where, when I graduate from that college, people will remember me for the good things that I did instead of not knowing me at all or remembering me for bad things—like if I partied too much or did stupid stuff,” Wesley said. “I want to be remembered for being the guy who found some new thing in the biomed field and went on into the medical field to continue on with his research and implement that into the actual medical facilities.”
Exactly what advice would he give stressed out college students? Wesley would tell them that getting into a good school was a big part of the battle that they’ve already conquered.
Wesley said he would tell the other students, “We all had a tough road to even be considered to go here, so just always remember that you can do it.”
Those are just the accomplishments Wesley has had through school. Angela reminds him he has logged countless hours giving back to the community. He works with Manna House, a group that gives out boxes of food to the homeless and hungry, and he works with underprivileged youth at Willowbrook Baptist Church.
It was one of those kids who changed the way Wesley thought about gratitude.
“What really shaped me, I guess, was when I was … at Willowbrook. … (T)here was a kid who was really good at basketball—and I’m into basketball—so he started playing along, and he kept a smile on his face despite his family not really having any food for him, which I found out later,” Wesley said.
Then he learned the boy’s family had been evicted from their home.
“Just to see him still be happy and playing along with everyone on the court gave me a sense of purpose,” Wesley said. “I’m being upset over my mom telling me to go do something, and this guy has no food and no home, but he’s able to still have a smile on his face and be able to show the light of Christ to everyone, despite the circumstance.”
For more information on Valley Fellowship Christian Academy, check out their website.
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