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Meet the Duke pre-med student (and Fayetteville native) on Season 38 of ‘Survivor’

Keith Sowell, a Fayetteville, N.C., native and pre-med student at Duke University, on the premiere of “Survivor: Edge of Extinction.”
Keith Sowell, a Fayetteville, N.C., native and pre-med student at Duke University, on the premiere of “Survivor: Edge of Extinction.” CBS

A Duke pre-med student from Fayetteville will compete on Season 38 of “Survivor,” which premieres Wednesday (Feb. 20) on CBS.

Keith Sowell writes on the Cardea Fellows Program page on the Duke University website that he is an African American Studies major with minors in biology and chemistry, and that his dream has always been to become a doctor to help underprivileged communities.

Keith is also a poet. His poetry, he writes, reflects his Christian faith and touches on topics such as “racism and hyper masculinity.” He’s the co-president of Spoken Verb, an on-campus poetry writing and performing collective, so maybe we’ll hear some of his verses on the show.

On the CBS website, Keith describes himself as “religious, competitive and creative” and says he is “driven, focused and possesses the willpower to make mountains move.”

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Keith Sowell, a Fayetteville, N.C., native and pre-med student at Duke University, on the premiere of “Survivor: Edge of Extinction.” Robert Voets CBS

He writes: “I know I can be the Sole Survivor because I’ve already been living against the odds. Me being a lower-class black man, I wasn’t nurtured to be the salutatorian of his class that would be able to afford Duke University of all places. I didn’t have the bloodline of doctors to show me how to succeed or the finances to take prep classes for educational opportunities. I didn’t even know what class rank or GPA meant until junior year.” (Keith would have been a good contestant for last season’s “David vs. Goliath” match, which included Alison Raybould, a doctor at UNC.)

According to the Duke site, Keith was an RA (resident assistant) at Duke during his sophomore year (he appears to be a junior right now — he’s in the Class of 2020), which means he should have some good skills for dealing with people and conflict. Keith’s “social game,” as they say, should be strong (although he does mention he left the RA program after “acknowledging my limits,” so ....).

Keith is in the Manu Tribe on “Survivor.”

Another NC connection

Ron Clark, a member of the Kama Tribe, is originally from Chocowinity, N.C., but now lives in Atlanta.

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Ron Clark, a contestant on “Survivor: Edge of Extinction,” is originally from Chocowinity, N.C., but now lives in Atlanta. Timothy Kuratek CBS

According to the CBS site, Ron is a teacher at the Ron Clark Academy, which is a nonprofit middle school in Southeast Atlanta. He says the three words that describe him are “visionary, compassionate and ‘mean girl.’ “

Here is Ron’s “Survivor” plan: “My passion for life rubs off on people and, with focus, I can change people’s moods and get them to follow my lead. I’ll use my Southern charm to disarm, my big personality to entertain and my loyal nature to disorient.”

Ben Driebergen, who attended Capital High School in Boise, was named the winner of the 35th season of "Survivor" on CBS. He spent 39 days on a remote Tahitian island eating snails, coconuts and hermit crabs to become a finalist.

Watch ‘Survivor’

“Survivor: Edge of Extinction” premieres at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, on CBS.

Brooke Cain is a North Carolina native who has worked at The News & Observer for more than 20 years. She writes about TV and local media for the Happiness is a Warm TV blog, and also covers local retail.


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