It’s not imaginary.
The NC School of Science and Mathematics was the nation’s first public residential high school focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Eleven states have copied the NCSSM model since it opened in 1980 in the renovated Watts Hospital in Durham, and 18 similar schools now exist around the globe.
The school – a campus of the University of North Carolina System – attracts students from across the state, with 680 residential and 350 online students.
For 370 additional students across the state whose high schools don’t offer AP physics, aerospace engineering or other highly specialized courses, NCSSM also offers interactive video courses.
“The fact that this school was set up to serve kids all over North Carolina, and providing them what is I believe the best high-school education in the country, regardless of their ZIP code, regardless of their parents’ ability to pay, really resonated with me,” Todd Roberts, the school’s chancellor since 2010, says in the accompanying video.
Roughly one-third of NCSSM instructors have PhDs. But at a residential school, learning doesn’t stop at 4:15 when classes end.
“That learning environment is really almost a 24/7 type of environment,” Roberts says.
The school – which counts star musicians, astronauts and entrepreneurs among its alumni – has an ultra-creative student body. One student recently built his own drone and used it to shoot aerial photos of campus.
Students who might be set apart as “smart kids” at home join similarly talented, motivated students at NCSSM. And some might even get their first B.
“They’re able to become a part of a close community that’s able to push them farther than they may have gone individually,” Roberts says.
“I think that, plus the quality of faculty we have – we’re able to offer opportunities for learning for these high school students that in many cases they won’t find anywhere else in the country.”
Photo credit: Sawyer Wofford, NCSSM class of 2018 student