Weston David Barger, graduate of Conway High School 2009, came from humble beginnings. Growing up in the public school system, he would have been known as what teachers call, “that kid.” Yet, he has become a local success story.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t care about school. I even failed a few classes,” said Barger.
School was a struggle for Barger because of his drive and enthusiasm for guitar. As a member of a local metal band, Barger wanted to make a career in music and ultimately teach guitar. As his high school years continued the voice of his parents’ was always in his head.
“My parents pushed me to go to college,” said Barger, “and once I started thinking about it, I realized teaching guitar was not a stable source of income.”
Barger was never interested in learning before college. While he was not a terrible student, he, “didn’t excel,” said Jim Lemon, stepfather of Barger.
Heeding the voice of his parents, Barger entered his freshman year at the University of Arkansas seeking an engineering degree.
College became the first stepping-stone for Barger’s academic renaissance.
“When he went to college, the light came on,” said Lemon.
Barger explains that he was always interested in learning new things, “I’ve always been interested in learning, like guitar and I was self taught, but the math classes I took in college was the first time that my interests matched up with my studies,” said Barger, “I found that I really enjoyed learning.”
Education opened Barger’s eyes to new possibilities and opportunities that he had never known before.
“It felt validating and I really did start to see how my education shaped how I saw the world. I fell in love with learning, specifically learning math and computer science and the way that it describes the world,” said Barger.
Once his passion for education was ignited, Barger began to excel at all of his classes and became a member of the University of Arkansas honors college. He has been awarded many awards and honors including an internship to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
“Basically, I’ll be doing statistical work at NASA,” said Barger. While he has not been told full details on his internship duties, he and his family is extremely excited for the opportunity.
Following the internship, Barger will transition into his PhD studies with a full ride scholarship to the University of Washington in Seattle. “It’s a five-year program, but I can finish earlier or later depending on grant money,” said Barger, “I’ll study specifically a hybrid between math and computer science.”
Despite Barger’s continued academic success, he continues to play guitar in his free time as well as bike.
“I pretty much haven’t had much spare time, but I still play guitar and ride bikes. I also write computer codes for fun,” said Barger.