Duke University’s Student of the Month: Jordan student aims for Yale, Princeton

Jan. 13, 2014 @ 11:19 AM

James Hopkins, assistant principal at Jordan High School, did a double-take when he saw Michael Spears sitting in a conference room near the principal’s office that’s usually reserved for students who have gotten in trouble.

But Spears, a 16 year-old junior who plays power forward on the school’s basketball team, hadn’t broken any rules.

He was in the conference reserved for rule breakers for a very different reason -- to be interviewed by a reporter because he’s been an exemplary student.

“Spears, everything straight?” Hopkins asked, peering into the conference room.

When told Spears had been named the school district’s Student of the Month for January, Hopkins breathed a sigh of relief.

“I knew it had to be for something good,” Hopkins said. “This is the bad office, so it was real peculiar to see Mike sitting in here.”

Spears, who sports a 4.6 weighted grade-point average, had just enjoyed one of his best outings on the basketball court, scoring 17 points against rivals Hillside High School in an 89-77 victory.

In addition to basketball, Spears is an aspiring tennis player and has been practicing piano for about six years.

“I was more surprised that they picked me out of all the other smart kids at this school,” Spears said.

While all smiles about his play and the Falcons win against Hillside, Spears believes there’s an academic scholarship in his future rather than an athletic one.

“I want an academic scholarship, and I was looking at some Ivy League schools,” Spears said.

He said his schools of choice are Princeton and Yale, where he plans to pursue a degree in business. He’s also expressed interested in Duke and Stanford universities.

Spears recently learned that he is a math finalist to attend the Governor’s School of North Carolina, an honor of which his principal, Jerome Leathers, who nominated him for Student of the Month and his parents, Herman Spears and Nancy Lee Spears are especially proud.

“My wife and I are very proud of how he has put forth his best effort with regard to his academics,” Herman spears said. “We know he is a dedicated student.”

Michael Spears is an avid chess player and taught kids chess at the Durham Arts Council to play while volunteering there last summer.

He also tutors members of the basketball team.

“We are proud of him as a human being and at his humbleness,” Herman Spears said. “We know God has given him a special gift and he’s chosen to use it.”

Michael Spears said his parents were his early motivators but he now pushes himself to earn good grades.

“I’m a hard worker and pretty much self-motivated and I’m curious,” Spears said. “[My parents] pushed me early on, but I don’t really need them now to be right there [all of the time].”


Duke University and its Office of Durham and Regional Affairs are proud to sponsor Duke University’s Durham Student of the Month. The Office of Durham and Regional Affairs strives to broaden and strengthen engagement with Durham and the Research Triangle region. Visit community.duke. edu to learn more about the office’s educational outreach, neighborhood quality of life and economic development initiatives.

: 16
GPA: 4.6
School: C.E. Jordan High School
Favorite Book: Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Favorite Music: Hip hop