Hometown/State: Greenville, North Carolina
Incoming EC Scholar Class (year): 2008
Scholarship(s) Awarded: W. Allen Separk EC Scholars Award; Dowdy Student Stores EC Scholars Award; W. Cecil and Elizabeth C. Butler EC Scholars Award
Major/Intended Major: Spanish, Biology Minor (pre-med)
Why did you choose to attend East Carolina University?
I made my decision to attend East Carolina University after visiting Dr. Jean-Luc Scemama's cell physiology class. I knew one of the current EC Scholars and she invited me to attend one of her classes. The only class that fit my schedule was at 8am. I just knew that the class was going to be boring and I was going to have to fight to keep my eyes open. I was pleasantly surprised when class began and it felt more like a discussion, rather than a lecture. The class was discussing cancer cells and I was thoroughly intrigued. Dr. Scemama made the class even more entertaining by telling jokes throughout the lecture. Everyone in the class seemed to know each other and the students talked with Dr. Scemama and asked questions as if they were just friends chatting about cancer cells. I realized during that class, that I had to come to ECU. Even with nearly 28,000 students, the professors get to know the students on a personal level and the class sizes are small enough to foster such relationships. That was very important to me as an incoming freshman and now it seems that my journey at ECU has come full circle. I am finishing my time at ECU right where it began, with Dr. Scemama, who is going to be my faculty advisor for my Senior Honors thesis project.
What has your scholarship enabled you to do?
The EC Scholars Program has provided me with numerous opportunities that other students do not have. I have eaten lunch with the Board of Governors for the UNC school system at the Chancellor's house, which was an amazing experience. The greatest experience that I have had, as a result of my scholarship, is studying abroad in Mexico. The summer after my freshman year, I traveled to Mexico for two months to study Spanish. Being immersed in Mexican culture for eight weeks, taught me much more than I could have ever learned from a textbook or a professor. I was able to view life from a different perspective and appreciate many of the amenities that we take for granted in the United States. I met students from around the world, while learning Spanish, volunteering at a boys' orphanage, and shadowing doctors at a public hospital in Mexico. The knowledge I gained from study abroad continues to shape the way I view many life experiences. My scholarship will enable me to study abroad again, next fall in Puerto Rico. Many students struggle to study abroad once during their undergraduate experience. With my scholarship, I do not ever have to worry about missing out on an opportunity because of financial issues.
What unique leadership opportunities have you experienced at the university?
ECU has helped me realize that leadership is a passion of mine. As a freshman, I became involved with Pirate to Pirate Mentoring, which was only an idea at the time. With about ten other motivated students, I helped create this organization. The goal of Pirate to Pirate is to bridge the gap between upperclassmen and freshmen, by pairing freshmen with juniors and seniors to help them become more acclimated to college life. It seemed like a great idea and I wanted to be part of something that was going to change ECU. Pirate to Pirate Mentoring, which had no name when I became an executive board member as a freshman, is now a successful organization that pairs 100 mentors and mentees each fall semester. I am the current president of Pirate to Pirate Mentoring and I have learned many leadership skills by starting an organization from scratch. If I had not been in the Honors program at ECU, I wouldn't have received an email about this idea for an exciting new organization. In addition to this unique experience, I have had the opportunity to travel to leadership conferences in North Carolina and present various leadership models to students at other NC institutions, as well as at ECU. During my sophomore year, I worked as a Student Leadership Assistant (SLA) for the Center for Student Leadership and Civic Engagement. When I first heard about the position, I was enticed by the power that these SLAs had to help students realize their potential to be great leaders. While working as an SLA, I was able to make many connections with the Student Government Association, as well as getting to know the Chancellor, the Provost, and the Vice Provost on a more personal and professional level. My favorite part of this experience was meeting thousands of students and realizing how many outstanding leaders we have at ECU.
What are your career plans/aspirations?
Upon graduating from ECU, I plan to attend medical school to become a pediatrician. With my Spanish background, I would like to work in rural areas with large minority populations. My dream is to have for-profit clinics (in the city) and non-profit clinics (in rural areas), with the for-profit clinics providing the financial support for the non-profit clinics, along with additional funding from private donors and grants. After volunteering at several clinics that service low income families, I realize the need for clinics that can not only provide patients with check-ups and basic medical care, but also provide many of the tests and treatments that a lot of these patients need. I know it is going to be difficult to accomplish all of this, but I have to try, because there are so many people who could have a better quality of life if they could get the medical care they needed.
How have you made a positive impact while you have been at East Carolina University?
One of my passions is to serve and I was thrilled when I found out that my first semester at ECU would involve service through the EC Scholars Program. Our first task as scholars was to tutor students at Belvoir Elementary School in Pitt County. This school has a large Hispanic population and many times, I worked with a Spanish-speaking student. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and I was able to see the progress of the students throughout the semester. It was amazing to see how they gained more confidence as they began to become more comfortable reading aloud. It was a great feeling to know that even though I was just 18 years old myself, I was helping a first-grader learn how to read. This is something that will have an impact on these kids for a long time and I am happy that I was able to be a part of it. In addition to doing service through the scholars program, I ventured on my own to find other volunteer opportunities. One, in particular, was the TRIPS (Turning Responsibility Into Powerful Service) program. TRIPS is our alternative breaks program at ECU and last year, I went with a group of 25 ECU students to Atlanta. We helped rebuild a children's home and we also volunteered at a school for low income families. The people at the children's home were so grateful for the work that we did on the building. It had burned down and was now being rebuilt by various volunteer student groups. It was an amazing experience to realize that my hands put in the walls that will help keep children off the streets and in a safe and secure place. Not only do I strive to positively impact younger kids, but I am also helping to impact the future of East Carolina University by sitting on the Student Advisory Board for the Vice Provost of Student Affairs. This group advises the Vice Provost on decisions that will affect current ECU students, as well as students who will attend this outstanding institution 10 or 15 years from now.