We met with a number of the Glitter Sisters in the AHS/SILSA media center. They, like Principal Nicole Cush, were all wearing specially designed t-shirts with, of course, a glitter logo. Here’s what some of them had to say.
Sophomore Hailey Ellis, who will graduate in 2021, told us, “I chose SILSA because I want to graduate with all honors. You can do that at AHS but it’s a different environment. We have smaller classes, and you get more one-on-one time with teachers. The SILSA community is very small—like 370 students—so you can develop close relationships with friends. SILSA is also a good look on your college applications, because it’s not regular high school. It just gives you more opportunities.”
As for her own goals, she says, “I’m leaning toward the medical field. I want to be a dermatologist, but then I also want to be in law, so I’m not sure where I’ll end up. Right now I’m leaning toward dermatology.”
Her admiration for the principal is immediately apparent. “Ms. Cush connects with young females, she’s more like a mentor than a principal,” she says with enthusiasm.
Junior Lydia MacNair, class of 2020, echoes that sentiment. “We can connect with Ms. Cush. She doesn’t just punish you. She tries to understand—if you get in trouble she understands why things happen, [takes time to] understand before she takes action.”
Lydia chose SILSA “because I wanted a smaller environment but regular high school experience. I like Honors classes, I wanted to get credits that way. Also it will help me get into good colleges.” She, too, is interested in medicine, possibly as an anesthesiologist. “I like helping people,” she says. “Or social work. It could be fun to work with kids my age, to say to them, ‘I’ve been in your position,’ that way I could give younger girls a sense of hope.”
Aysia Ferguson, a sophomore, chose SILSA as a way to push herself. “It’s a school where you can reach your full potential,” she says.
She wants to be the first in her family to graduate from college—ideally from UNC Greensboro, “because they have a great interior design program, it’s hands-on with students, smaller class sizes, so I can get the help I need.” That is her goal: to be interior designer, but overseeing not just furnishings of a house, but how it was built, using what materials, the site. In fact, “I want to give input on how it looks, the whole environment” … and might even consider a career in architecture as well.
Her classmate Lizzy McDowell wants to be a forensic nurse, where she can take care of victims of assault, work in labs, provide emotional support for victims. (She acknowledges that she watches all the crime and medical shows—NCIS, CSI, etc.)
“I chose SILSA because I wanted to push myself harder than average classes do. Honors classes helps you get into a good college—maybe Cornell or Arizona University.” And while she would prefer to study out of state, her preferences in North Carolina are Chapel Hill and Western Carolina University.
McDowell gives high praise to Principal Cush. “She connects more hands on with the students. These Glitter Sisters t-shirts come out of ‘Glow and grow.’ We used to have lot of fights; now it’s peaceful. We’re growing and starting to see happening things, seeing a change in everyone.
“Glow and grow means you can mature, grow up, but still look the way you want to without feeling you have to dress a certain way, conform.”
A group of freshmen, who will graduate in 2022, shared similar thoughts about the school and Principal Cush.
Porsha Carter moved to Asheville from California in the middle of eighth grade. A year later, she’s excited to be at SILSA.
“SILSA is smaller so we’re all in honors classes, and small class size helps you learn better. You get more teacher time and attention. That challenges me. I want to be a doctor, maybe Ob-Gyn, but definitely somewhere in the medical field.”
She’s also a tall, talented basketball player, though she recently has had to miss games due to a hairline leg fracture. But she notes, “There are many obstacles in life. You don’t let them overcome you, you just continue to push through.” And she aspires to earn a basketball scholarship from UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, or back to California at UCLA.
Her classmate Malaysia Barber wants to be a lawyer and has her sights set on attending NC A&T and then becoming a lawyer. She likes “the extra push you get at SILSA. I don’t like to be in big classroom.” And with the school structure of “A” and “B” days for different classes, “You get more time to get stuff done.”
Malaysia knows that people aren’t perfect and will always face challenges, but she is determined to live by her motto: “Broken crayons still color.”
Another young woman in this group of ninth-graders is Jamya McMorris, who attends Asheville High, which offers both honor and standard classes. Like several of her girlfriends, she believes she’ll enter the medical field … “or be famous,” she says, smiling. She’s clearly a fellow high achiever, having taken three honors and one standard class in her freshman first semester.
Zion Mosley loves the fact that SILSA students have to be hardworking to meet the challenges of taking all honors classes. “I get to push myself to the limit. Just towards what would make me successful.” A talented and determined actress and singer, Zion sings in her church and has appeared at Asheville Community Theater in five plays and two musicals. “I want to be famous,” she says. And if success comes her way as she envisions, she will follow her own advice: “Be yourself—because you won’t have the time and energy to love yourself.”
What Empress-Imani Hackett, also a freshman, appreciates about SILSA is the good relationships she has developed: her “sisterhoods with my Glitter Sisters.” She chose to attend SILSA because it offered her better opportunities. As for career plans, “I’m just going with the flow to where it takes me,” she says.
The closing words of our interview could apply to every one of her fellow students, as she says, “All I’ve been through has made me stronger.”