Yes! Weekly’s Ten Best College Graduate

(Last Updated On: May 9, 2006)

by Amy Kingsley

Judy Blair

Guilford College

It’s Guilford College tradition to choose two students to represent the senior class during commencement exercises, one traditional and one continuing education. Judy Blair falls into the latter category and addressed her classmates May 6. In addition to working full-time as an IRS revenue officer, the criminal justice major made the dean’s list every semester and finished her studies in an impressive three years. Blair somehow found time to squeeze in extracurricular activities with student government and the Young Alumni Leadership Program between work and school. Her immediate plans include getting roughly six months of well-deserved rest before exploring her options for graduate school.

Shannon Jones

Winston-Salem State University

Winston-Salem State is one of the few area universities that recognize a valedictorian. Roper, NC native Shannon Jones took the top academic honor at this institution with a cumulative GPA of 3.959. She didn’t earn that loading her schedule with underwater basket weaving either. Jones majored in molecular biology with minors in chemistry and biology. She’s already been accepted into the toxicology master’s program at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she will apply her prodigious smarts to making the world a healthier place.

Blake Brandes

Wake Forest University

In addition to being a rapper and a DJ, this newly minted Wake Forest graduate will soon join the ranks of elite international scholars. Brandes earned a Marshall Scholarship for next fall, a prestigious award that will allow him to attend graduate school at the University of Kent in England. The English and French major will specialize in post-colonial studies, particularly the connections between youth culture and political identity. Hmmm’… I wonder if his thesis defense can be formatted as a kind of epic intellectual rap battle.

Jamie Trout

Greensboro College

This young woman has a busy month ahead of her. About two weeks after Jamie Trout is scheduled to speak at commencement (she was selected by her classmates) she will be getting married. Then, right on the heels of that event, she will begin a new job at Ameriprise Financial. We think she can handle it, though, seeing that she successfully juggled a business major (4.0 GPA) with roughly a dozen extracurricular activities. These include but are not limited to: Alpha Chi Honor Society, Omicron Delta Kappa, American Marketing Association and varied acts of community service.

Justin D. Ramey

North Carolina A&T State University

Justin Ramey will not only be earning a bachelor’s in electrical engineering, he will also be stepping down from his post as student body president when he crosses the stage at commencement. His resume includes stints as an Aggie Ambassador to the College of Engineering, membership in Omega Psi Phi fraternity and experience playing trumpet in A&T’s renowned marching band. Locals might have a chance to catch him playing or just relaxing in the next year as he researches graduate schools to which he plans to apply for Fall 2007.

Bart Thornburg

North Carolina School of the Arts

This Naples, Fla. resident came to Winston-Salem for the conservatory training in violin performance offered at North Carolina School of the Arts. During his undergraduate years, he restarted the dormant campus newspaper, founded a chapter of the College Republicans, studied campaign management, served on the board of trustees and led his class as student body president. The college student even started a club, Conservative Artists, for high school students at the school ineligible to join the College Republicans.

Melissa Westmoreland


College Republicans President Melissa Westmoreland has been one of the most vocal crusaders for free speech on the UNCG campus alongside sometime political bedfellows, the College Libertarians. On that front she marshaled volunteers for the free speech protests and helped change a campus anti-discrimination policy. The political science major’s immediate plans may be more in the vein of resting and saving money, but her long-term prospects include law school and a political career. Keep her name in mind ‘— you might be marking it on a ballot sometime in the not-to-distant future.

Cara Craig

Guilford College

Fans and casual listeners of WQFS 90.9 FM can thank station manager Cara Craig for the eclectic music and news programming beautifying our airwaves. During her stewardship, the station ranked (again) in the Princeton Review and saw the release of the first CD compilation bearing its call letters. And speaking of beautifying, Craig’s also earned a reputation around town for the swell haircuts she dispenses for the dirt-cheap cost of one cigarette pack each. She double-majored in peace and justice studies/African American studies at Guilford, and she will soon work on improving the world’s coiffures as a student at Leon’s Beauty School.