WL native graduates Harvard

Published 8:26 pm Saturday, June 4, 2016

Photo submitted / Colton Slade Welch poses with his grandparents Roger and Joe Ann Pepper after graduating from Harvard University recently.

Photo submitted / Colton Slade Welch poses with his grandparents Roger and Joe Ann Pepper after graduating from Harvard University recently.

A West Lincoln Attendance Center graduate recently walked across the stage at his Harvard University graduation with a Bachelor of Science in human development and regenerative biology and a minor in language citations.

Colton Slade Welch, 22, graduated with his undergraduate degree in May and will move on to New York City in the fall to study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Welch said moving to Boston, Massachusetts, from Lincoln County to attend Harvard proved to be a huge change.

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“I went to West Lincoln High School, which is a great school with really good teachers, but it was a huge adjustment going from a really rural school in Mississippi to an Ivy League school in Boston,” Welch said. “My first semester was a big shift. I had to adjust a lot, but I really enjoyed it. All four years were a challenge, especially being pre-med. You had to work hard to keep your head above the water, but I met a lot of really cool people from all over the world. I made friends from all over the world. It was a good experience overall.”

Coping to such a different place than home became easier when Welch realized all of his classmates were experiencing a culture shock as well.

“I guess that’s the good thing about Harvard is that people are from everywhere — every state and something like 80 countries — so everyone was kind of new to that area,” Welch said. “Everyone was going through a little bit of culture shock, but we were all able to get over it together.”

Welch decided to pursue pre-medicine at Harvard after attending the Rural Medical Scholars program at Mississippi State University the summer before his senior year of high school.

“What we did for that program is, we took pre-med classes at MSU, and then we shadowed doctors across the state,” Welch said. “That was really my first exposure to it, and that was what convinced me that I wanted to study medicine, so I stuck with it throughout college. I shadowed more around Boston and did some research at a hospital in Boston and decided that’s really what I wanted to do.”

Welch’s research experience while at Harvard consisted of working in a lab that studied ovarian cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“They were trying to develop a treatment for ovarian cancer, and that is what I worked on in the lab,” Welch said.

In addition to studying pre-medicine and working, Welch became fluent in two languages while in school — French and Japanese.

“I’ve taken French for a long time,” Welch said. “I guess I kind of started at the beginning of high school and then I’ve just taken it continuously through high school and then also all four years at Harvard. I like languages. They are fun. I used all of my electives for languages. I need to learn Spanish. I am going to try to work on that over the summer because I feel like I just need to know it.”

The next step in Welch’s plan is to graduate from medical school. He contemplated attending several different schools but chose Mount Sinai because of the experience he will be able to obtain in New York.

“One thing I really like about Mount Sinai is that since it is in New York City they have hospitals all over the city, with all different types of patient populations, so if you go to school there, you get to see every type of patient imaginable, and that seemed really cool to me,” Welch said. “I just really like the school overall. People seemed really happy there.”

Welch further explained why he is looking forward to attending Mount Sinai.

“I like New York a lot,” Welch said. “I am excited to move there. There is a lot of energy. It’s never boring. Boston is nice too because it’s a city, but it’s kind of quiet.”

Reflecting on his future and his time at Harvard, Welch said he never imagined that he would have to opportunities that he has encountered up to this point in his life.

“I just applied to a lot of schools,” Welch said. “I never expected to get into Harvard. I just said, ‘why not apply and see what happens.’ And then I did get accepted. I applied to a lot of schools here and all over the country, just to see what I would get in to and to see what my options would be. I never expected to actually get accepted to Harvard.”

Welch said he would not have been able to accomplish what he has without his support system.

“I am very thankful to my family,” he said. “My mom, step-dad and dad have been super supportive the whole time. I definitely would not have been able to get through all of it without them.”

Welch will return to Boston this summer to work for the school.

“I will be back at Harvard for most of the summer,” he said. “I’m going to be a proctor. Harvard has a high school summer program, and I’ll be a proctor for that. It’s an RA and also an adviser position. I’ll be working there for the summer, proctoring and also tutoring for a few different classes.”