DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Jamonte Madison's success is adding to the many triumphant stories that have come out of Hillside High School. The 25-year-old Durham native is among a small group of people worldwide to be selected to attend the prestigious performing arts school Juilliard and obtain a Master's degree in Fine Arts. He has launched an online fundraiser to cover the cost of tuition.
"I feel blessed to be there honestly. I'm still trying to take it all in, but ultimately, this is the first step to a greater journey for me," he said.
He was a 16-year-old junior student at Hillside when he was first introduced to the arts. He remembers the first improv scene he enacted: as a teen in a detention center meeting his father for the first time. That was very personal for him because only his mother raised him.
"The scene brought out a lot of real emotion in me. It's been a real adrenaline rush. After it was done, it was an in-class scene. I never looked back. I kept going," said Madison. "It was just a world of amazement I never knew."
After graduation, Madison headed to UNC Pembroke and he graduated with a bachelor's degree in Theatre Arts. He credits Hillside's drama department for setting the stage for his future.
"It's phenomenal training. I don't know where I'd be without Hillside honestly," he said.
Wendell Tabb was the drama director when Madison was a student. Tabb said he believes Madison is the first Hillside graduate to head to Julliard.
"When I first heard the news he was going to Juilliard, I was beyond excited. I shed a tear. Anytime my students do extremely well, it does something to me emotionally," said Tabb, now the former Hillside High School theatre director.
Madison shared that he recognizes other Hillside students can follow his path.
"I'm remaining humble, very focused and driven to continue my training and grow into the artist that I want to be," he said.