North Atlanta High School senior named finalist for 2010 Coca-Cola Scholar award

In Julia Darien Durham‘s mind, she’s already a winner. As one of 250 finalists for the 2010 Coca-Cola Scholar program, she is guaranteed $10,000 in college scholarship money. Durham, a senior at North Atlanta High School, learned of her placement Feb. 8. She’ll attend a banquet sponsored by Coca-Cola in Atlanta in late March, when she’ll learn if she’s one of 50 to receive a $20,000 scholarship based on leadership and volunteer work.

“To be chosen as one of 250 out of 70,000 people is already an amazing honor,” said Durham, North Atlanta’s student body president.

Durham was honored for work that includes participation with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, where she became inspired to advocate on hunger issues and attended its Youth Leadership Summit. A passionate believer in education policy, Durham has become actively involved at North Atlanta in tutoring other classmates. “I love seeing the looks on the students’ faces when they get a problem correct,” she said. “That’s when I get the sense that I’ve actually done something, no matter how small it is. If they can get a single math problem, they know they can under something else.”

Durham hopes to major in education policy, whether it’s at the Woodrow Wilson School of Policy and International Affairs at Princeton or any number of other schools to which she’s applied, including the University of Gerogia, Emory, Penn, Harvard or Florida. (She could be forgiven for having a bias toward Georgia; her grandfather, Hugh Durham, was once the Bulldogs’ basketball coach.)

She spoke over the phone with a tinge of embarrassment as she cited one of her inspirations for education policy: North Atlanta High Principal Mark Mygrant (pictured above, with Durham), who was sitting nearby in his office during the interview. “I know it sounds kind of cheesy, but Mr. Mygrant has been an inspiration because he’s been my principal since middle school,” Durham said of Mygrant, who moved from Sutton Middle to North Atlanta during Durham’s sophomore year. “He’s very committed. He walks the hallways. He makes personal connections ith the students. I’ve always felt safe, and that my education was in its best hands while at this school.”

Mygrant has enjoyed following Durham’s progress: “Having her interested in education makes me proud, too. It’s great to see someone with energy and dedication going into education as well.”

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