Lance Braye probably could go anywhere after he finishes medical school, but he’s going to his hometown of Walterboro to practice, and hopefully launch a charity to help young people.

Graduation ceremonies

May 3

Trident Technical College — 7 p.m., North Charleston Coliseum. Speakers: Students Cassandra Romero-Tobia and Alberta Addison.

May 4

American College of the Building Arts — 10 a.m., Washington Square Park. Speaker: Evan Thompson, executive director of the Preservation Society of Charleston.

Charleston Southern University — 10 a.m., North Charleston Coliseum. Speaker: Frank Bullard III, coastal regional president for BB&T.

The Citadel — 9 a.m., McAlister Field House. Speaker: Gen. Robert Cone, commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

The Citadel Graduate College — 4 p.m., McAlister Field House. Speaker: State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais.

May 10

South Carolina State University — 7 p.m., Oliver C. Dawson Stadium. Speaker: Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

May 11

College of Charleston —10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Cistern Yard. Speaker: Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell.

Charleston School of Law — 1 p.m., McAlister Field House, The Citadel. Speaker: Chief Judge William B. Traxler Jr.

May 17

Medical University of South Carolina — 9 a.m., McAlister Field House, The Citadel. Speaker: U.S. Rep. Donna Christensen of the Virgin Islands.

Braye, 21, will graduate from The Citadel next weekend, but quickly will jump into another challenging academic setting at the Medical University of South Carolina in August.

He’s a whiz kid, a perfectionist, the valedictorian of his class at Colleton County High School and a company commander at The Citadel.

He loves his hometown, and says it’s much more than the crime- ridden place portrayed in the media.

Gang activity and a string of shootings in recent years drew unwanted attention to the rural Colleton County community that bills itself as “the front porch of the Lowcountry” and prefers to highlight its quaint downtown and outdoor offerings.

Authorities intensified their efforts after a November 2009 drive-by shooting killed two adults and a 20-month-old girl. Violent crime has dropped in the city since that time, officials have said.

But Braye said he has never felt unsafe there. He gets a warm feeling when he sees the Colleton County sign on the way home from The Citadel. “This is the place that made us,” he said. “A chunk of my heart is stuck there.”

And after he graduates from medical school, he’s going to return to help make it an even better place.

“People think that growing up in a small town holds you back,” Braye said, “but it’s just the opposite.”

“Statistically speaking, I should be in a different place,” he said. “I’m a black male with divorced parents.”

But he refused to accept any negative messages about who he is or what he could become. “Once you put yourself in a box,” he said, “it’s hard to get out.”

He always knew he wanted to be a doctor, and for years knew he wanted to attend MUSC. “When I got the acceptance letter,” he said, “all of my dreams came true.”

Wanda Taylor, MUSC’s assistant director of admission, said the school works hard to enroll a diverse group of students. She’s thrilled Braye decided to enroll. “He could go anywhere,” she said. “He’s not only bright, but has excellent character.”

Braye attributes that character to his parents, who pushed him to do well and succeed. There never was a family discussion about getting good grades; it simply was expected, he said.

And his interest in the medical field was sparked by his mother, who is a nurse.

Claudia Rocha, a biology professor at The Citadel and one of Braye’s mentors, said, “I think the world of him. He’s the kind of student you would always like to have in your class. I can rely on him.”

In his final days as a cadet, Braye finds himself feeling grateful to the military college. “If I could do it again I would,” he said of his experience there. “It’s a big life experience.”

And it provided excellent preparation for medical school, he said. He already knows how to function on very little sleep and to live a disciplined life.

Braye knew after a campus visit when he still was in high school that The Citadel was the place for him because it provided him with a challenge, he said. “It was the only place I applied.”

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.