Jordan Lancaster, sophomore
As soon as you meet Appalachian State University freshman Jordan Lancaster, you know he has lots of layers besides his clothes.
Lancaster calls himself an "outlandish sort of person." He's also one of 214 Appalachian ACCESS scholars on campus.
Lancaster could probably talk to a post and make it talk back. He says such things as, "Hey, man, I like to have fun from the minute I wake up 'til the minute I go to bed, you know what I mean? I like to make other people laugh. And I love to be the center of attention, but not in a bad way. You know?
"My greatest passion in life would have to be music. I love to sing and play guitar with friends. My family and I karaoke all the time. It's great."
Lancaster's touchstone is his mother.
"She is the only person I know who will treat anyone with respect, even if they don't deserve it," he said. "My mom is my role model because she tries to do right by everyone. She is also my best friend."
He speaks of his family with ease and affection, but delve a little deeper, ask him to talk about his accomplishments, and a sort of reticence takes over. Like many creative people, Lancaster isn't keen on talking about himself.
Not so his high school track coach and science teacher, Coleman Bailey, who remains a mentor.
Bailey said, "I first came to know Jordan as a very good runner, and then, as a student in my standard chemistry class. He was one of the few students I ever recommended go right on from standard to advanced placement chemistry."
Originally from Greenville, Lancaster is a May 2012 graduate of Avery County High School, where he transferred as a senior. His list of credits in academics, track, broadcasting, drama and community outreach is impressive.
In 2011, Lancaster's science project exploring how heat shield design impacts effectiveness garnered him an invitation to join the elite American Junior Academy of Sciences and to attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
In 2012, Lancaster won first place at both the N.C. Student Academy of Sciences Fair and the N.C. Science and Engineering Fair with a project on how long wood must age before it produces maximum energy as a heat source.
Last June, his project was one of 248 accepted from 49 countries and 32 states at the Global Environmental Issues -- U.S. (GENIUS) Olympiad, an international competition held at the State University of New York in Oswego.
Lancaster won the silver medal.
Bailey said, "Jordan was the first student I've ever had who advanced so far in this competition."
Another accolade was Bailey's description of Lancaster's entry to ACHS as a new student.
"Jordan took us by storm. Within three weeks, everyone at the school knew him. And he made it a point to know us all by name -- custodians and cafeteria employees, as well as students and teachers. His kindness had a terrific impact on us," Bailey said.
Plus, he made things happen.
Lancaster was interested in broadcasting, so he lobbied the superintendent and school board for a broadcasting class. One was created that year.
He also liked to act, so Lancaster joined a theater club that produced two shows its first year, "Air Guitar High" and "Peter Pan," in which he played one of the Lost Boys.
Expanding last year's already full agenda, Lancaster took psychology, pre-calculus, calculus and Spanish at Mayland Community College in Newland to shore up his application qualifications for Appalachian, the only school he ever wanted to attend.
"Jordan fell in love with the campus when he attended summer running camps here. He always felt that it was meant to be -- and that it was going to be," Bailey said.
"The highlight of Jordan's outstanding senior year was being accepted to Appalachian as a scholar in the Appalachian Commitment to a College Education for Student Success program," he said.
The ACCESS program offers a debt-free, four-year university education at Appalachian to students with economic challenges that would prevent their attending college otherwise.
Diana Beasley, one of Lancaster's contacts in the Office of Admissions, said, "Jordan has a remarkable ability to overcome adversity and set his mind on the prize. He possesses a joie de vivre that's refreshing. He's charismatic. He has a positive world view, and he energizes everyone around him."
Lancaster's first semester at Appalachian was true to form. He made the dean's list. He got a gig with the university's student radio station, 90.5 FM WASU-ROCKS.
Tune in at 8 p.m. on Mondays and midnight on Wednesdays to hear him.
All in all, it's another auspicious new beginning for Lancaster.
And it seems that Appalachian has made a sterling investment.