East Wilkes senior Stone Bauguess is more than a tennis player or a baseball player.
And although many know him as the drum major, the musician, or the president of the National Honor Society, there’s still a little more to the 18-year-old who was born to Chris and Tracey Bauguess and raised 20 minutes from the East Wilkes campus in Thurmond.
He will leave a lasting impression and an imprint behind. He will leave behind big shoes to fill.
East Wilkes English teacher Laura Wills would agree. She’s had Bauguess for English for four years, including for advanced placement (AP) English this year. She is also the Key Club faculty advisor — a club Bauguess has held leadership positions in throughout high school.
And, he’s the valedictorian.
Wills described Bauguess as a “quiet presence. He came in very academically oriented,” Wills continued. “But he’s full of personality. He has a love and desire to help his community. He is always willing to do whatever needs to be done.”
The help he gives extends to fellow students. “He takes the time to help a student stressing over math,” Wills said. “He very diplomatically helps other students.”
She recalled his help last May at the March of Dimes event in North Wilkesboro. A lot of students were worried about having time to prepare for the prom that night. Not Bauguess. “Stone showed up early,” she said. “He worked and then he went to prom. He is just phenomenal.”
Bauguess again is helping with the Wilkes County Science Olympiad at West Wilkes Middle School Saturday and then with the Wilkes County March of Dimes event at West Park in North Wilkesboro May 10.
Bauguess said he didn’t come to East Wilkes or into Wills’ classroom polished. He said most of the teachers “I’ve had are really good at helping you. The teachers really care.”
Although he says he has always struggled with English, the subject became his favorite. “It’s not really the subject,” he said. “It’s the teacher. She’s made me enjoy it more than I would have. I just didn’t enjoy writing.
“But having her as an English teacher has really helped.”
From Cardinal to Gamecock
In the fall, Bauguess will take his skills, his helping hands, and his ambitions a few hours south to the University of South Carolina. He is the first East Wilkes graduate to attend school at the Columbia campus.
Bauguess said attending South Carolina happened because “we just got some stuff in the mail.” One thing led to another.
“We just went there and I loved it,” Bauguess said. “The campus is nice. The people are extremely nice.”
Bauguess will play in the marching band. He will get financial help because of his academics and a stipend for being in the band.
He’ll take on a major in biochemistry and is thinking about minoring in music. Long term, he is thinking of a pharmacy degree, but is going to get an undergraduate degree “in case I change my mind.” Even biochemistry isn’t a certainty. Bauguess said he wants to see. “We’ll find out if that’s the road for me when I get there,” he said.
Bauguess changed directions this spring, trading his baseball spikes and bat for tennis shoes and a racket. The results have been remarkable.
“His coachability is off the charts,” East Wilkes Coach Aaron Simmons said. “A lot of times people with the intellect of Stone aren’t always the most coachable.
“From day one, he’s done everything we’ve asked him. And what it takes a day or two to explain to some, he’s got in five minutes. That’s why he’s had so much success this year.”
Bauguess played three-set matches against players from Wilkes Central and Elkin this season. He earned All-Conference honors at last week’s Mountain Valley Athletic Conference tournament in Elkin.
“It’s as much about will and preparation as it is athleticism,” Simmons said. “He has one of the best attitudes of anyone I’ve ever coached. One year playing and guys have looked to him as a leader.
“I just wish I had him for three more years. He’s just awesome.”
“I’ve always enjoyed tennis,” Bauguess said. “It’s been great. Coach Simmons — he’s a great coach. I’ve had a great time playing under him. I’ve learned a lot.
“That’s what it’s all about: having fun and learning. If you don’t enjoy it, you shouldn’t be doing it.”
“He’s just a well-rounded person,” East Wilkes athletic director Justin Call said. “He’s one of those people — when he sets his mind to something — he does a great job.”
Beyond that, Call said, “He’s active in his church and in his community. He has his priorities in order.”
East Wilkes band director and music teacher Jennifer Weddington has taught and worked with Bauguess since the sixth grade. “He’s always very responsible,” she said. “This past year he was our drum major. He did a fabulous job with that.
“He’s always been a good example. Just through his consistency, leadership, and confidence.”
Weddington said Bauguess rubbed off on his fell band members. “I think he affected them,” she said. “You always want [the drum major] to be the best one in the band.
“He’s the best in the band.”
Bauguess was voted best all-around band member by his peers. The selection is based on marching, leadership, musical ability, and really “everything,” Weddington said.
“He cares beyond his part in the band,” she said. “To the point of helping me pick music out. He cares more about the global perspective of it.”
Weddington said Bauguess fit perfectly with co-drum major Destinee Potts. “It was a tribute to him that he could do it with someone else and could do it well,” Weddington said.
“We’re really going to miss him. I’ve taught him for seven years.”
Weddington hopes graduation won’t be Bauguess’s last appearance on the Ronda campus. “I’m going to ask him to come back and help,” she said. “And if he can’t come back during school, at least he might be able to for the camp part.”
“I really like marching band,” Bauguess said. “I really have a passion for music. Marching band has let me incorporate that passion.”
Bauguess progressed from music officer his sophomore year to band captain his junior year and to drum major his senior year. He played the alto and tenor sax and learned to play the trumpet for his senior project.
He has earned an American History award from Woodmen of the World and taken many AP classes at East Wilkes.
A likely void
At Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, he is in the choir, the handbell choir, an instrumental ensemble, and a mixed vocal ensemble. Through his church, he has participated in two missions — one to Belize in 2012 and another to a Navajo reservation in New Mexico.
“It was humid in Belize,” Bauguess said. “I do believe our church group was blessed more than the people we were there to help.”
Bauguess said the trip has left a lasting impression. “They were more laid back and happier overall than we are,” he said. “It was such a big change from what we experience here.
“Poverty was a bigger issue there. They didn’t have anything, but they were a ton happier than we were.
“It just teaches you to appreciate what you have. People here talk about having more and more and more.
“They were just happy with what they had.”
“He is a hard worker; incredibly intelligent,” Wills said. “He has a great deal of intellectual curiosity, yet he is very humble.
“He’s just wonderful. He’s going to be missed very much. If I could, I’d keep him here.
“There will be a big void.”
Jim Fuller may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @elkinareasports.