Theater arts, physical therapy, nursing, engineering and business are a few of the planned fields of study for 20 incoming freshmen selected for East Carolina University’s prestigious EC Scholars Program.
The program is a four-year merit scholarship recognizing outstanding academic performance, commitment to community engagement and strong leadership skills. Recipients are admitted to ECU’s Honors College and receive a scholarship for four years, along with a stipend for study abroad, for a total value of approximately $61,000.
The entering EC Scholar recipients have completed a rigorous three-tier selection process that includes meeting the Honors College admissions criteria, having an additional faculty review and completing an on-campus interview. The incoming EC Scholar recipients have an average combined math/verbal SAT score of 1336 and an average unweighted GPA of 3.93.
"I really enjoy helping and caring for people, and nursing will allow me to do that constantly."
Jacqueline "Jackie" Renee Curtis said East Carolina University's distinguished College of Nursing was the reason she included ECU on her original list of potential colleges. But the 16-year-old from Willow Spring said the Pirates she interacted with during Scholars Weekend and Honors Preview Day sealed the deal.
"Everyone I met, students and faculty alike, was friendly, outgoing and eager to help," she said.
Curtis is one of 20 freshmen who will enter ECU in August as EC Scholars - participants in the university's most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program.
Although her particular scholarship offer comes with membership in ECU's Early Assurance Program in Nursing, guaranteeing her entry into the College of Nursing, Curtis said she's equally excited about other opportunities she sees down the road.
"I'm still excited about attending nursing school at ECU," she said, "but I've also realized that the close, tight-knit student body present in the Honors College - and especially in the EC Scholars program - will enable me to grow personally as well as academically."
Being an EC Scholar gives Curtis opportunities she never even dreamed of, she said. "I never imagined that I would be able to work alongside some of the best professors and students in the country, to study abroad, or to begin to make - years before graduating college - such a real and meaningful difference for people around me," she said.
Curtis can't remember a time when she didn't want to be a nurse.
"I have been interested in nursing all my life," she said. "I would go to the library and check out books on nurses when I was four or five. I really enjoy helping and caring for people, and nursing will allow me to do that constantly.
"The Early Assurance Program gives me an incredible opportunity to pursue graduate studies in nursing," Curtis added, "and it will help me to reach even greater heights in my quest to be the best nurse I can be."
Curtis looks forward to sharing some adventure - and bonding time - with fellow classmates through summer activities organized by the Honors College for the incoming class. Those plans include a group cleanup project in a Raleigh park, sailing, zip lining and whitewater rafting.
Also topping her summer to-do list: spending lots of time with family and participating in the Christian Youth Theater's summer production in Garner.
In addition to theater, Curtis's hobbies include singing, playing the piano and speaking in American Sign Language. "I would love to use ASL while I'm at ECU," she said. "Something I'm looking into is volunteering as an interpreter at the hospital."
Curtis, the daughter of David and Beth Curtis, was home-schooled throughout her entire elementary and secondary education.
"I aspire to be someone who leads a life of positivity and happiness."
Kayla Daughtry is about to embark on a journey that will allow her to explore each and every one of her diverse passions.
Daughtry is one of 20 incoming freshmen entering ECU in August as EC Scholars - the most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program the university offers. She plans to eventually become a neurologist and neurosurgeon with a focus on brain trauma and mental disability.
"I have been made aware of how difficult it can be to live with a disability," she said. "I hope to one day simplify that lifestyle through new research or medical treatments and therapies."
A lofty goal for some, that aspiration is just one of many topics that give Daughtry a zest for life, leadership and service. Aside from her love of science and all things "brain" - "I am fascinated by the brain, its psychology, its flaws and its anatomy," she said - she enjoys literature, languages, all religions, writing, music and sports. She plays the piano, sings and dances for fun. She hopes to explore those interests at ECU through activities such as intramural sports or the Magnolia Belles a capella group, as well as search for volunteer opportunities working with special needs individuals.
"I hope to pursue this within the classroom by gaining more knowledge about it to further prepare me for my intended medical pathway," Daughtry said. "I also hope to study abroad to work in a shelter for children with special needs in a Third World country."
Before examining those possibilities, Daughtry plans to stay busy all the way up to her first day on campus. This summer, she is taking kickoff trips with the Honors College; working part time as a grocery-store cashier; and volunteering at Jolly Day Camp, a three-week camp for special needs students from elementary to high-school age. She also will spend time with friends, family and her future roommate.
Daughtry is already strategizing the best ways to build strong relationships with professors and classmates that will shape her college experience from the start.
"I aspire to be someone who leads a life of positivity and happiness," she said, "and I want my work and relationships with others to reflect that. I take pride in being easygoing and fun-loving while also being able to balance discipline, hard work and intelligence."
She's also looking forward to becoming a role model on campus.
"To me, being an EC Scholar means being held to a high standard by my professors, peers and community," Daughtry said. "It represents to me that I am someone who stood out among the crowd as an individual who wants to dedicate her life to service and being a person of character."
She is the daughter of Lisa and Curtis Daughtry.
PLANNING TO SHAPE POLICY, BEHAVIOR EC Scholar Lily Faulconer
"My eventual career goal is to serve as an environmental advocate who changes the way humans interact with the environment by shaping policies and transforming public attitudes and behaviors."
Smithfield's Lilian Faulconer has her eye on a law degree and a career as an environmental advocate. She has a good start on that goal as a recipient of one of the top scholarships at East Carolina University.
Faulconer is one of 20 high school seniors who will enroll at ECU this fall as an EC Scholar, the university's leading undergraduate scholarship program. She said receiving the scholarship is an "honor and privilege."
"I stalked my mailbox during decision week and cautiously opened my letter when it arrived," she said. "When I saw 'Congratulations,' I did a happy dance! To say I was thrilled and excited to receive this prestigious scholarship would be an understatement."
She attends Smithfield-Selma High School and is the daughter of Linwood and Johna Faulconer of Smithfield. Her mother is a 1988 graduate of ECU.
At ECU, Faulconer plans to major in political science and seek out internship and research opportunities related to environmental policy locally, nationally and internationally. She said she's also looking forward to Pirate football.
"My eventual career goal is to serve as an environmental advocate who changes the way humans interact with the environment by shaping policies and transforming public attitudes and behaviors," she said.
Last summer, Faulconer spent a week on the ECU campus at the Shelton Leadership Challenge and liked what she saw. "ECU is a big university, but it feels warm and inviting," she said. "I knew that I would be academically challenged and supported all on the same campus, so the decision to apply was an easy one."
Opportunities for service, a faculty that's involved with students, strong academics and the local community's support for the university cemented her decision to attend.
Before enrolling, Faulconer plans to travel to Europe as well as the North Carolina mountains and coast.
At Smithfield-Selma High, Faulconer served as president of the mathematics honor society and the Spanish honor society and as activities coordinator for the National Honor Society. She was crowned Miss Smithfield-Selma High School, played varsity tennis for four years and was an active member of the pep and science clubs.
In the community, she volunteered with the Miracle League of Johnston County, Backpack Buddies and Keep Johnston County Beautiful. She was a four-year member and president of the Juniorettes of Johnston County and received the President's Volunteer Service Award.
"It took a lot of work for me to get here and I want to uphold that."
Kelly Forbis of Holly Springs said being an EC Scholar is "quite an honor. I feel blessed."
"It definitely means a lot to me," she added, "because over the next four years it will help me to be successful. It took a lot of work for me to get here and I want to uphold that."
Forbis is one of 20 freshmen entering ECU in August as EC Scholars - the most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program the university offers.
Forbis, 18, who has been trained as a certified nursing assistant, said she is interested in getting a nursing degree at ECU but may major in pre-med. "Something in the medical field, definitely," she said.
The Holly Springs High School senior said she chose ECU over other schools "because of the opportunity it gives me. At ECU, I know I will get an education that will set me up for graduate school."
Plus, she said ECU simply felt like home. "I just love the atmosphere at ECU. I felt more welcome there."
The daughter of Susie and Andy Forbis, who is a graduate of ECU, she is a midfielder on her high school's varsity soccer team. Her team won its way into this year's state playoffs.
Forbis is a member of the National Honor Society and active in Health Occupations Students of America. She has helped organize blood drives at her high school the past two years. She coordinated the events with Rex Hospital Blood Services and registered donors ahead of the events. The drives produced the most donations of all those sponsored across the state by HOSA, Forbis said.
She plays piano and is a member of the hand bell choir at Woodhaven Baptist Church. She also sings in the church choir.
Forbis earned CNA certification last summer. She said she plans to work this summer as a CNA to keep her license current.
"I'm getting excited about college, but this summer I plan to spend lots of time with my friends and family before I come to ECU," she said.
Forbis is a twin. Her sister plans to attend N.C. State University and major in civil engineering.
"As an EC Scholar, you're an ambassador for ECU. Not only in your school life but outside...to lift up the reputation of ECU in the community."
When East Carolina University wanted to offer Vivian Holt a scholarship this spring, they learned the 19-year-old can be a bit difficult to track down.
Holt's father, an ECU alumnus, works in the U.S. Foreign Service. His career has taken them to South Korea, England, Costa Rica, and most recently to an embassy in Botswana, where her family has spent the last three years. Her offer letter came as an email - scanned in by her aunt who lives in the States.
Holt is one of 20 incoming freshman entering ECU in August as EC Scholars - the most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program the university offers.
Her global lifestyle has resulted in some unique educational experiences. Holt was one of six students to graduate from her school in December 2013, she said, and the only student in some of her classes.
"I'm looking forward to having more people around to talk to and learn about and from," she said, adding that she's already been looking at textbooks online and reading about Honors College courses and leadership opportunities.
Holt intends to major in biochemistry and minor in nutrition, and hopes to later attend medical school and specialize in dermatology. She selected the career track in part because of her ongoing treatment for keratosis pilaris, a skin disorder commonly referred to as "chicken skin." Her sister also has the condition.
"It made me really nervous to wear short sleeves or shorts," Holt recalls. "Doctors kept telling us 'it'll go away in a few years; it'll be fine.' We kept looking for someone who could tell us what it really was."
They found that dermatologist while living in London. She prescribed them lotions, more time in the sun and reassured the girls that she'd seen the condition many times before.
"You can change a person's whole life just with something simple," Holt said. "By helping them with their skin."
With many years of higher education ahead of her, the scholarship package offered by ECU swayed her from other schools she considered, including Vanderbilt University.
"(EC Scholars) really convinced me that this was the best option for my future. To keep my debt as low as possible."
And in spite of all her worldly travels, she already has a place picked out for her study abroad experience: Lapland, Finland.
"I want to go somewhere cold," she explained. "London was cold, but without any snow."
Holt is the daughter of Arlen and Thania Holt. The family will relocate to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, this summer.
"I'm really excited for some of the opportunities to get involved in research and educational opportunities."
Lillian Howie of Fayetteville said she's looking forward to the many learning experiences that come with being an EC Scholar.
"I'm excited for some of the opportunities to get involved in research and educational opportunities," Howie said. "The ECU scholars program is great in that you get so many opportunities, and I'm looking forward to that."
Howie is one of 20 freshmen entering ECU in August as EC Scholars - the most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program the university offers.
The Massey Hill Classical High School senior said ECU initially was not at the top of her college list.
"I was really surprised by ECU," Howie said. "I had not thought much about the different colleges, but a friend of my mom's encouraged us to come to the open house at ECU last year, and I came and I was absolutely amazed. I got to tour the campus with some current EC Scholars and they were so helpful," Howie said.
Since that visit, "I've been in touch with the Honors College people throughout the process and I just love the people. All the professors are so wonderful. The students are all fantastic," Howie said.
She knew ECU was the right choice because "I feel really happy there."
Howie, 18, is the daughter of Nathan and Mary Lynn Howie, who has an MBA from ECU. She said she plans to double-major in geology and Hispanic studies.
Howie earned her Girl Scout Gold award for a project in which she wrote and illustrated two children's books for the Fayetteville Child Advocacy Center (CAC).
"These books...contain fictional stories about children visiting the CAC so that the children who read them will know what happens at the center, and hopefully be more comfortable and less frightened during their experience," Howie said.
Writing seems to come naturally for Howie, who has competed in the National Novel Writing Month challenge. The annual event, held in November, challenges writers to compose a 50,000-word novel within the span of 30 days. "Winning the challenge by completing the 50,000 words requires a prolific imagination and excellent time management skills," she said.
Howie co-captained her high school's N.C. Science Olympiad team that won the Fayetteville regional competition for two years running. She is president of her school's National Honor Society and was a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist.
Howie has taken piano lessons for 10 years and regularly performs in recitals and in ensembles. She is active in the choir at Haymount United Methodist Church. The choir performs an annual "singing valentines" event for church members and others in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
She said a family road trip is on this summer's schedule.
"I'm going on a trip with my family for around three weeks. We like to travel during the summer. This year we are going to the Great Lakes, and touring the area between the U.S. and Canada. We go to a lot of national parks and see a lot of the natural landscape."
"I think it most definitely (means) being around people who are...hardworking and goal-oriented and intending to do well."
Taylor Leposa received not one but two prestigious scholarships from East Carolina. In addition to being named an EC Scholar, the university's top undergraduate academic scholarship award, Leposa was selected as an ECU Business Scholar.
The Business Scholars award is for students who plan to pursue careers in business. Business Scholars participate in the College of Business Leadership and Professional Development program, a curriculum designed to ensure students develop the leadership skills of critical thinking, value orientation, communication and team building.
Business Scholars receive $12,000 in addition to the EC Scholar award and are guaranteed entry into ECU's MBA or MSA program upon completion of their undergraduate degree.
Leposa, 18, said she was offered similar scholarships from other schools and really had no firm idea which one she should select - until she visited ECU.
"I had visited a couple of campuses, but when I came to ECU for the first time it was extremely inviting. Everybody welcomed me and everyone was very helpful from the students who were leading us around up to the highest administrators. The whole atmosphere was so welcoming."
To Leposa, knowing the type of people she will interact with daily is one of the attractions of being an EC Scholar.
"I think it most definitely (means) being around people who are...hardworking and goal-oriented and intending to do well. It will mean I will be with people who are community-service minded, who have outgoing personalities," she said.
"I met these two girls (on campus), and I was extremely impressed with them because they were so kind and so helpful," Leposa said. "You could tell they wanted to be the best they could be and I like that. It really speaks about what ECU values. I like those old-fashioned values."
As a sophomore, Leposa and other Smithfield-Selma Senior High School students spent a week in Denmark on a student exchange trip. The group toured major landmarks and visited with Danish students who had spent time in Smithfield the previous year.
She has trained in gymnastics and is active in the youth group at First Baptist Church of Smithfield.
This summer, Leposa has a job waiting tables at a restaurant. She also is looking forward to a family vacation. "My family and I are going on a cruise to St. Thomas in a week or so as a graduation celebration," she said. "We will be there eight days and I can't wait."
Leposa is the daughter of Jessica Brank and John Leposa. Her mother is a graduate of ECU.
High School: North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics
Intended Major: Exercise Physiology
"I am a firm believer in the power a smile can have."
Lindsey Raye Locklear said when she left East Carolina University's campus after her first visit, she was already feeling like "part of the ECU family." And she said it had nothing to do with the fact her older sister is an ECU student.
The 18-year-old from Fuquay-Varina said her sister's experience is what first piqued her interest in the university, but being named an EC Scholar is what assured her ECU was the right decision.
Locklear is one of 20 freshmen who will enter ECU in August as EC Scholars - participants in the university's most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program.
"The feeling of community and kindness I was shown by both staff and students on my first tour of the campus made me feel as if I was already a part of the family," said Locklear. "I am very proud to be a part of this school, and I know I will achieve great things here."
Locklear's sights are set on a degree in exercise physiology, followed by a doctorate in physical therapy. "Being an EC Scholar means I will have extra support to achieve my goals through the mentoring I'll receive from the Honors College staff," she said.
But Locklear plans to give as well as take. She has volunteered in a number of community organizations for as long as she can remember and has no intention of stopping now.
"I will have the ability to continue my involvement in community service through the additional opportunities the EC Scholars program provides," she said. "I will have the honor of positively representing the school though my academics and volunteering."
Locklear said her tendency towards service will translate naturally into a therapy career, because both are centered on making positive impacts directly on others' lives.
Her interest in physical therapy grew from seeing her grandmother regain knee strength through weekly sessions with a therapist. "She progressed from using a walker to walking on her own," Locklear said. "Seeing the positive change a physical therapist helped to make in her life began my drive to become one."
The past two years Locklear has attended the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics - a residential high school in Durham aimed at developing leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics - so she looks forward to enjoying time with her family this summer.
Before moving to campus, she'll also work as a camp counselor for Noah's Landing, a nonprofit hands-on zoo in central North Carolina, where she's worked and volunteered for more than six years. There she'll teach kids how to be zookeepers and take care of exotic animals like lemurs and fennec foxes.
One of Locklear's favorite activities: "smiling and sharing my happiness," she said. "I am a firm believer in the power a smile can have."
Locklear is the daughter of Melanie and Duane Locklear.
"It's a special honor to be around 20 of the most well-rounded students in North Carolina."
East Carolina University already feels like home to Lillie Malpass.
She's spent time on campus with her sister, Natalie, who is a rising junior at ECU and an EC Scholar. This fall, Malpass will be one of 20 freshmen entering as an EC Scholar - the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship program the university offers.
The Malpass sisters are among several sets of siblings in the history of the program, including fellow incoming freshman Lindsey Locklear and her sister Taylor.
"I'm looking forward to the amazing opportunity, expanding my horizon and also being there with my sister," Malpass said. "It's a special honor to be around 20 of the most well-rounded students in North Carolina."
Biology has been Malpass' favorite class at East Columbus High School and will likely be her major with a minor in nutrition at ECU, she said. She's particularly interested in genetics and wants to pursue a career in the medical field.
Ranked first in her high school class, Malpass is president of the Student Government Association and president of the Future Farmers of America chapter. She is a member of the National Honor Society and senior Beta Club. She also is vice president of the Columbus and Bladen counties FFA federation. On May 9, Malpass attended the FFA South Central Regional Rally at Fayetteville Technical Community College, where she placed first in the job interview category. She will move on to compete at the state convention in Raleigh in June.
With student government and FFA, she has helped organize several community service projects including Safe Night, an alternative Halloween event including hayrides and trick-or-treating, a clothing drive and Relay for Life. The SGA raised about $3,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Malpass has played soccer all four years for her high school, where she also plays tennis and is on the school's bowling team.
A Girl Scout for 14 years, Malpass plans to complete 80 hours of work for the Gold Award this summer. It's the highest honor in girl scouting, similar to an Eagle Scout for boys. She is considering a project on veterans after hearing from a World War II veteran in a U.S. history class. "His story inspired me so much," Malpass said. "Their lives are something we don't know anything about."
At ECU, Malpass is looking forward to meeting people with similar goals and learning from other EC Scholars - like her sister.
"We're best friends," Malpass said. "She's my role model. It's so exciting to be there, and to be with her, and to follow in her footsteps."
"I think what makes me stand out as a scholar and person is my desire to lead."
Maggie Marshall is looking forward to following her passion for physical therapy among students who also have a drive to learn and grow during their undergraduate years.
"I am looking forward to living and learning with others who have a desire to excel and lead," she said. "I always wanted to go to a large university, but I loved the small family feeling I got when I looked into the Honors College."
Marshall, 18, is one of 20 incoming freshmen entering ECU in August as EC Scholars - the most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program the university offers. As an aspiring physical therapist, Marshall also has been accepted to the early assurance program in physical therapy; she is guaranteed entry to the graduate program upon completion of her undergraduate degree, provided she satisfies program requirements.
"I am excited to know where I will be continuing my education after I finish my first four years," she said. "Physical therapy is something I am passionate about, so I feel extremely blessed to have been selected for a program that will ensure I reach my career goals."
In addition to the unique early assurance opportunity, Marshall said she is looking forward to personalized attention from faculty and classmates and the special trips, events and activities offered through EC Scholars and the Honors College.
She comes to campus with close ties to the university; both her parents went to ECU, and she has always considered herself a Pirate. When she begins her own college experience, she won't just focus on academics. She plans to pursue her love of sports and athletics, join an outdoor adventure club, seek volunteer opportunities and explore different cultures.
"I hope to gain more knowledge on different cultures and ways of life through my interactions with Honors College and EC Scholars students, faculty and staff," she said. "I realize there are many different cultures and ways of life just here in the United States, and that fascinates me."
Marshall hopes to eventually travel to every continent, along with pushing herself outside her comfort zone by learning to play guitar or participate in extreme sports - she recently went sky diving. This summer, she plans to vacation with her family, attend kickoff events for the Honors College, and spend time with her future roommate.
She wants to make an impact on campus as soon as she can in service and leadership activities.
"I think what makes me stand out as a scholar and person is my desire to lead," Marshall said. "I try to open myself up to everyone and their views because I think open-mindedness is best. I think that way of thinking helps me stand out because I want to be seen as someone who is relatable."
"I hope to mature and grow as a student and leader over the next four years."
Drew Navarro is eager to be held to high expectations from faculty and peers as he begins classes this fall. He is determined to make a difference not only at East Carolina University but in the surrounding community as well.
"EC Scholars and early assurance members are challenged to fully engage their community and school," he said. "I feel called to positively impact myself and those around me. Down the road, I hope to make lasting contributions to the wellbeing of this school and community."
Navarro, 18, an aspiring physician, is one of 20 incoming freshmen entering East Carolina University in August as EC Scholars - the most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program the university offers. He is also an alternate to the early assurance program in medicine, which guarantees spots for selected students in the Brody School of Medicine provided they complete their undergraduate degree programs and meet program requirements.
"I will be exposed to excellent preparation for medical school throughout my undergraduate years," said Navarro, "inside and outside of the classroom. It is an opportunity that I will seek to make the most of."
An avid outdoorsman, Navarro enjoys running and other athletic activities. As he prepares for his first semester at ECU, he plans to attend summer Honors College events, work as a lifeguard, volunteer at a hospital and spend time with family and friends.
Navarro is looking forward to meeting and engaging fellow EC Scholars and Honors College students in seminars, classes and college events. He will explore possibilities from becoming an ECU Ambassador to joining the triathlon club and volunteering at Vidant Medical Center. He hopes to delve into research topics including biomedical technologies and cardiovascular disease. He is eager to take advantage of study abroad opportunities and to explore campus, all while keeping faith and family close to his heart.
"The Honors College and university also provide a host of service, leadership and extracurricular opportunities that I plan to pursue as well," he said.
Navarro chose ECU's Honors College because of what he describes as a unique ability to prepare individuals to succeed while also representing a high standard of excellence all around.
"The warm, unassuming atmosphere surrounding ECU's Honors scholarship programs is very unique," Navarro said. "The students interact with one another as friends rather than competitors. I am excited and grateful to be a member among them."
He is ready to take advantage of every opportunity at his fingertips.
"I hope to mature and grow as a student and leader over the next four years," Navarro said. "I also look forward to building lasting relationships within this group and within the Greenville community."
"Being an EC Scholar means that I now have a whole range of opportunities available to me as a student and that it is my responsibility to do as much as I can with them as possible."
While Kevin Nguyen may have been nervous about selecting the right place to attend college - "it's a big decision," he noted - his mother had a plan.
"You're going for that EC Scholars," she told him. "You're going to get it."
Nguyen, 18, also considered attending N.C. State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill because a lot of the Cary-native's friends are enrolling in those schools. But he couldn't pass up East Carolina University's offer of the EC Scholar award - the most prestigious undergraduate merit scholarship the university offers.
"I was absolutely speechless," he said of receiving the news. "I just started jumping around. Luckily, my parents weren't here to hear the ruckus."
Nguyen plans to study engineering at ECU with a concentration in biomedical engineering. The strength of ECU's engineering program and regular collaboration with the health sciences campus helped make ECU his top choice, he said.
"I always thought I'd be a doctor, but I'm not great at talking to new people," he said. "Still, I wanted to work in that field."
It's an area he became interested in partly due to another passion: reading science fiction. The imagined accounts of "Ender's Game" and other series made him curious about the real science behind the stories. Attending a seminar on nanotechnology at Duke University while in high school furthered the interest in science.
Now Nguyen is interested in studying biosynthesis - how various chemical compounds are produced by living organisms.
He plans to enter the ROTC program at ECU and join the U.S. Air Force after college. The military will afford him ample opportunities to work, he said. But he's equally looking forward to the service and leadership curriculum for EC Scholars through the Honors College.
"Being an EC Scholar means that I now have a whole range of opportunities available to me as a student and that it is my responsibility to do as much as I can with them as possible," he said.
Nguyen said he's slightly nervous about coming to campus this fall because he doesn't know many students coming to ECU. However, he's definitely looking forward to finishing senior exams and enjoying the summer and "life with no school...while it lasts."
Nguyen is the son of Ta and Linh Nguyen.
EXCITED ABOUT OPPORTUNITIES EC Scholar Tulsi Patel
Intended Major: Neuroscience, international studies
"Being an EC Scholar...means having an outstanding academic experience in my undergraduate years, surrounded by a thriving atmosphere."
A Cary resident and soon-to-be Raleigh Enloe High School graduate has her sights set on medical school after being accepted into a prestigious scholarship program at East Carolina University.
Tulsi Patel, the daughter of Mike and Amita Patel, has been accepted into the EC Scholars program, the top undergraduate scholarship at ECU. She also has been accepted into the Early Assurance Program at the university's Brody School of Medicine. That means she's guaranteed a spot in medical school provided she meets certain goals while an undergraduate.
"After collapsing on the floor and shedding a few tears, I immediately could not wait to be part of such a prestigious program," Patel said. "I felt blessed to have been given such a wonderful opportunity and could not wait to make the most of the experience."
She said being an EC Scholar means having an outstanding academic experience as well as opportunities to study abroad and better her community through service at home. ECU and the EC Scholars program offer "endless" opportunities and the chance to be part of an "active and thriving" community, Patel said. She was also attracted to ECU's neuroscience program, and will be part of the ECU Honors College.
"I chose to attend ECU because through the EC Scholars Program, I will be given opportunities that are unimaginable at other universities," she said. "When I visited ECU, I had the 'I just knew it was the one' feeling that I had not experienced before. I could not wait to officially be part of the community and lively atmosphere I saw around me."
Before enrolling at ECU, Patel will travel to London to visit and attend a family wedding.
In high school, Patel has participated in the Medical Bio-Science Academy, the National Honor Society and Student Council. She served as president of the Medical Academy and as blood drive coordinator as well as completing an internship with the WakeMed pediatric surgical team. She has volunteered at Marbles Kids Museum and Duke Cancer Hospital and played recreational soccer with the Capital Area Soccer League.
While at ECU, she wants to be involved with service organizations as well as study in a Spanish-speaking country in order to develop her language skills. She also aims to participate in neuroscience research.
She plans to major in neuroscience and international studies. After she receives her bachelor's degree and completes her planned medical studies, she hopes to become a pediatrician.
"One of my greatest desires is to use my education to serve those around me."
Joanna Paul stands poised to make a difference in eastern North Carolina and around the world. One of the newest EC Scholars, Paul wants to use a career as a physician assistant or nurse practitioner to provide care to the underserved.
Paul is one of 20 incoming freshmen entering ECU in August as EC Scholars - the most prestigious academic scholarship program the university offers.
"Visiting India with my family back in 2007 really opened my eyes to the incredible devastation caused partially by the lack of quality health care in countries around the world," she said.
That wider perspective lends itself to her goal to be a servant-leader closer to home.
"One of my greatest desires is to use my education and training to serve those around me, specifically those in rural communities who don't have access to quality health care."
Paul emphasized that ECU is a natural fit for her because of the individual attention the Honors College promises.
"No other school I looked at had the same interest in me as an individual," she said, "and in helping me pursue my goals while also encouraging me to reach out to those around me."
Paul, 17, comes to ECU following a rigorous curriculum through Aristos Academy, with a home-school format that included concentrated areas of focus, extracurricular activities and service to the community. She is a volunteer with Child Life at Vidant Medical Center and plays bingo weekly with her family at a local nursing home.
She also is active in National Christian Forensics and Communication (NCFCA), through which she competes in team policy debates by researching and proposing reforms for the United Nations and United States criminal justice system, among other topics.
Paul's opportunity to delve into topics that interest her has bolstered her thirst for learning, something she knows the Honors College will fulfill. She feels the transition from a home-school setting to ECU will come naturally.
"In speech and debate, school, sports and many other areas, I have experienced my share of wins and losses," she said. "One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that the way I handle failure is just as important as the way I handle success."
Paul is already preparing to hit the ground running at ECU. This summer, she will get a head start on nursing course work by taking college level examination program tests. She also plans to attend an NCFCA competition near Washington, D.C., and prepare for several Honors College and EC Scholars trips.
She said she is looking forward to the freedom to focus on academics, leadership and service opportunities in the fall.
"I have so much to learn and grow in, but I think my desire for excellence in all things, thirst for learning and teachable spirit will serve me well," Paul said. "I have constantly pushed myself with challenging course work and extracurricular activities, attempting to do hard things and doing them to the best of my ability. I don't plan to stop that now."
"It shows my hard work pays off. I get to be at the place I want to be. It's a challenge being with students as smart as - or smarter than - you."
Austin Phillips grew up near East Carolina University, not thinking he would be a student there one day.
Accustomed to the university and town, he wondered if he could find a better fit somewhere else. But he learned in visiting other campuses that ECU, its student body and atmosphere are unique. "I've realized that ECU is different than just Greenville. It's a totally different community," Phillips said.
Phillips is one of 20 freshmen entering ECU this fall as an EC Scholar, the most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program offered by the university.
Earning the scholarship is a great honor, he said. "It shows my hard work pays off. I get to be at the place I want to be. It's a challenge being with students as smart as - or smarter than - you," Phillips said. "I get to represent my high school, my town, as an EC Scholar."
Just a few blocks from campus is Elm Street Park, where Phillips can be heard announcing Greenville Little League baseball games. He calls about 100 games during a four-to-five month period, working six nights a week. "I played in that Little League," Phillips said. "In middle school, I would help out off the field."
He trained as a scorekeeper and learned about different aspects of operations as opportunities arose. Any time he's not on the field, he can be found on the golf course. He has been on the J.H. Rose High School golf team four years and played baseball as a freshman. He also enjoys disc golf and recreational basketball.
A sports enthusiast, Phillips experienced one of the most difficult times in his life at age 14 when he received second-degree burns on his legs from a heater that caught his clothes on fire. "I could not walk for a month," he said. "It was really, really tough. I made the baseball team at my middle school the day before I got burned. I missed pre-season but made it back for the first game. I had to make up for a lot of time missed."
A scar remains, but he has grown from the experience, he said.
"It made me not take things for granted," Phillips said. "I'm more appreciative and care a lot more. It helped me as a person."
This summer, he'll be announcing Little League games after working with high school students at a Young Life camp in the north Georgia mountains. Young Life's mission is to introduce adolescents to, and foster their growth in, faith.
Active in the youth group at First Presbyterian Church, Phillips has been a leader for Wyldlife, Young Life's program for middle schoolers. It's another reason he wanted to stay close to home for college.
Phillips is a member of the Rose High mock trial team, which advanced to state competition twice and was state runner-up this year. He is a member of the National Honor Society, English Honor Society, Social Studies Honor Society and Math Honor Society. He also is part of the Dream Team, a club for Rose athletes that provides community service such as reading to elementary school children.
An intended communication major, Phillips said he is looking forward to being part of the Honors College, living in the Honors College living-earning community and making new friends at ECU.
"I've been singing since I was about 3 years old, and the idea of getting on stage and becoming someone else while singing has always been something that's fascinated me."
When Jessica Blair Rogers heard the news she'd been named an EC Scholar, it was music to her ears. The 18-year-old from Nashville plans to major in musical theatre at East Carolina University.
Rogers aspires to be a performer as well as a private coach.
"I've been singing since I was about 3 years old, and the idea of getting on stage and becoming someone else while singing has always been something that's fascinated me," she said. "It's fun because there are so many layers to it. Not only do you have to be able to sing, act and dance, but you also have to be able to look into the psychology of people and understand why people act the way they do - what their motivations are."
Rogers is one of 20 freshmen who will enter ECU in August as EC Scholars - participants in the university's most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program.
Her decision to attend ECU was not a difficult one to make, Rogers said. "I've grown up around East Carolina my entire life," she said, "so it was easy to make the decision to continue my education in a school I held a special place in my heart for."
Rogers did visit several colleges before settling on ECU, but said the environment at ECU felt more "personal" than any of the others. "The faculty at ECU made me feel as though they really cared about my success," she said. "I want that one-on-one attention as a part of my education."
Although she'll miss the drama, dance and choral programs she's been heavily involved in during her years at Nash Central High School, Rogers looks forward to the relationships she'll build at ECU -- not just with fellow Honors College students, but also with faculty. "I'm ready to take whatever they have to say in order to make my future as bright as it can be," she said.
Being an EC Scholar means being a leader on campus, Rogers said. "It means being the example others can follow in order to attain success," she said. "I want to be a person on campus who people know they can trust and come to when they need academic help."
Prior to starting ECU this fall, Rogers plans to spend most of her summer volunteering at children's performing arts camps in Rocky Mount and Wilson. A 2012 graduate of the Governor's School of North Carolina -- a summer residential program for intellectually gifted high school students -- Rogers also hopes to make a return visit to her alma mater so she can meet the newest class.
Rogers is the daughter of Scott Rogers and Amy Rogers, who holds three degrees from ECU. "I'm so excited to become a Pirate and to join my mother as a Pirate!" she said.
"All the hard work has paid off. In college, I'll still be putting in that same amount of hard work, but I'll be recognized for it."
Dance is as much a part of Ashley Wilford's life as academics. The Franklin Academy honors student has been performing for 15 years and works as an assistant dance teacher.
Her favorite form is contemporary because "it combines the methodical movements of ballet with the stronger movements of jazz, so it's a nice mesh of the two," Wilford said.
She will be in New York taking master's classes with professional dancers this summer before coming to East Carolina University in August as one of 20 freshman EC Scholars, the most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program offered at ECU.
As much as she loves dance, she plans to major in biomedical engineering which combines her interests in medicine, math and helping others. "I enjoy helping others and I want to continue doing that," Wilford said.
She's looking forward to the opportunities for research, internships and study abroad as an undergraduate student and EC Scholar, Wilford said.
Last fall, Wilford traveled to Spain, England and France with her high school. In March, she and her fellow advanced placement calculus and physics students had the opportunity to go to Disney World and shadow Disney "Imagineers," or engineers.
The backstage operations gave her an understanding of how different amusement rides work and how they are designed. "It did sort of take away the magic of Disney, but it was really fun, educational and insightful," she said. "Even though I'm thinking about biomedical engineering, it's interesting to explore that side of engineering - mechanical engineering."
She is honored to be an EC Scholar and looks forward to meeting new people and living in the Honors College living-learning community with students who have similar goals and priorities. After visiting campus, she said, "Everyone is welcoming and genuinely friendly, and I'm looking forward to that."
At Franklin Academy, Wilford is student council senior class representative and a member of the National Honor Society, National Dance Honor Society, Math Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society. Through student council, she has helped with a community Halloween carnival and has enjoyed tutoring middle school students through a Math Honor Society project. Wilford, who is past captain and four-year member of the high school cheerleading squad, participates in chorus and musical theater. She has performed at retirement homes and other community events.
Wilford is the daughter of Alex and Sim Wilford, and is the first in her family to attend ECU.
"All the hard work has paid off. In college, I'll still be putting in that same amount of hard work, but I'll be recognized for it," Wilford said.
"My uncle is an emergency physician and I shadowed him. Everything that he did, I want to do. It's fast-paced, stressful...something different every day."
The first time Cameron Worthington set foot on ECU's campus was when he arrived for a scholarship interview, which is perhaps unusual for someone who only lives 10 minutes away.
As it does for many prospective students, the visit changed the 18-year-old's impression of the university and assured him ECU was the right choice.
"I'd known about the Honors College, and I was extremely excited to hear about the scholars (program)," said Worthington, who also applied to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University.
Worthington is one of 20 incoming freshman entering ECU in August as EC Scholars - the most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program the university offers.
Not only did it feel like the right place, he said, but the financial benefits offered by EC Scholars were greater and he was drawn to the service opportunities built into the Honors College experience.
Worthington has also been identified as an alternate for the Early Assurance Program in Medicine, in which students are guaranteed entry into the Brody School of Medicine at ECU upon completion of their undergraduate degrees.
It was in late middle school, Worthington said, that he first started considering his future career. He knew health care was evolving and there would always be jobs in the industry. So he took the opportunity to spend some time shadowing his uncle, an emergency physician at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.
"Everything that he did, I want to do," Worthington said. "It's fast-paced, stressful...something different every day."
That was only the beginning.
Worthington continued pursuing opportunities to work in health care throughout high school. He completed hundreds of volunteer hours with EastCare (now Vidant Medical Transport) and the hospital's emergency department. He participated in the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine in the summer of 2012.
He's also extremely interested in medical research. As member of Pitt County Health Sciences Academy, Worthington has taken part in two studies involving the relationship between certain genes and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The program is a partnership between Pitt County Schools, Pitt Community College, ECU and the Eastern Area Health Education Center.
"Being an EC scholar at ECU means everything to me," Worthington said. "It allows me to go above and beyond during my college career. Through my service and leadership, I will be able to represent East Carolina University to the best of my ability."
Worthington is the son of Phil and Tammy Worthington.
"I know that I will be encouraged to push beyond my limits in a positive environment with supportive people."
Havelock High School senior Nadiya Yerich hopes an engineering degree from East Carolina University will lead to medical school and a career as a family physician.
She will take the first step toward that goal this summer, when she begins classes at ECU as an EC Scholar.
Yerich is one of 20 members of the Class of 2018 who have received the university's top undergraduate scholarship. The New Bern resident will graduate from Havelock High next month and begin classes in late June.
Yerich is the daughter of Iya Shchutska and Jeffrey Krueger of New Bern.
She chose ECU because of the EC Scholar program, the Brody School of Medicine and her experiences when she and her father visited campus in April.
"ECU conveys that the university is proud to have you as one of its students, which is not the aura I have gotten from other 'big-name' schools," she said. "At ECU, I do not feel like I will be just a number. I chose to attend ECU because I know that I will be encouraged to push beyond my limits in a positive environment with supportive people."
As the time neared when she would find out if she had received the scholarship, Yerich said she braced for bad news. But when the envelope arrived and she opened it, she was "estatic."
"It felt like such an incredible weight had been lifted off my shoulders - the weight being the price of attending college," she said. "I honestly felt like I had won the lottery and that all of my hard work in high school had finally paid off."
Born in Ukraine, Yerich moved to the United States when she was 8. She speaks Russian and English and is studying Spanish. She plans to major in biomedical engineering, attend medical school and become a family physician.
"I want to be able to take care of anyone that comes through the door of my office," she said. "Being a family physician would also enable me to build relationships with both my colleagues and patients, which doctors in specialties are seldom able to do."
While at ECU, Yerich plans to pursue student and service activities. She also hopes to travel to Italy to study.
"I look forward to being intellectually stimulated by the challenging coursework and honors classes offered to me as an EC Scholar," she said. "It also means that I get to cultivate my leadership skills and potentially reach out to my community through volunteer service."
In high school, Yerich held leadership roles in clubs, student government and the National Honor Society. She ran cross-country, played soccer, was a member of the homecoming court and made the principal's list every grading period.
In the community, she has tutored students, served as a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army during the holidays and raised money for Relay for Life. She also worked as a server at Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries in James City.
"I like how the Honors College is like a small school within a school."
Working in his grandfather's animal hospital in Fayetteville helped introduce Will Zahran to the medical field.
"I enjoy it...but I really don't care for animals other than dogs," Zahran said. "Reptiles are not really my thing."
Some of the more unusual patients he's seen have been a goat and a goose with a broken wing.
He witnessed the birth of five lab puppies by Caesarean section. "I helped with keeping them warm after they were born. It was really cool," Zahran said.
Zahran is one of 20 freshmen entering East Carolina University this fall as an EC Scholar, the most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program offered at ECU.
"I like how the Honors College is like a small school within a school," Zahran said. "I didn't think I would do well in a huge auditorium classroom."
This summer he'll be at his grandfather's practice, where he has been working since age 11. He feeds, bathes and walks dogs, cleans cages, washes dishes and works the front desk. He floats between helping technicians and receptionists, and with supervision, can run tests or administer a vaccine.
While he's not planning to be a veterinarian, he is leaning toward biology as a major. He's interested in medical school but he's also interested in teaching in higher education. "Honestly, I just don't know yet. Hopefully I can figure that out in my freshman and sophomore year," Zahran said.
His parents, Carolyn and Steve Zahran, went to ECU. His dad received a business degree in 1986; his mom transferred and graduated from another school. One of his dad's friends told them about the EC Scholars program.
"I didn't want to go too far from Fayetteville, and I didn't want to go where my parents would have to pay too much," Zahran said.
He started looking at schools with great pre-med programs and ECU rose to the top.
"I liked it when I visited," Zahran said. During the interview weekend, he met other scholars. "Seeing how happy they were, and seeing the school in general, I really enjoyed it," he said.
Receiving the award means "finally, what I've done in high school is starting to pay off," Zahran said. "It gives me a chance to go on to graduate school. It opens more options for me to go abroad."
Zahran recently returned from a nine-day visit to Italy, a trip offered through his high school, Terry Sanford High. "We were talking with this guy who spoke five languages. It really makes me want to stay over there for an extended period of time and learn a second language," he said. "Learning another language expands who you can help."
Zahran is president of the Sanford High chapter of the National Honor Society, an organization known for its peanut butter drive for food banks. "We take 70 to 80 jars every month to the food bank," he said.
The group has also supported Operation Christmas Child, collected blankets for the local child advocacy center and written cards to veterans. He also has been on the school's mock trial team which made it to regional finals. A varsity soccer player, he coached an under-8 boys' recreational soccer team for two years.
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