"I'd love to better understand how to ensure the health of animals in captivity."
Wilmington, North Carolina
Isaac Bear Early College High School
Danielle "Peyton" Jackson
Enthusiastic about animals and conservation
When Peyton Jackson participated in a summer science and math program at East Carolina University in 2015, the campus "felt like a second home."
Now, Jackson will be able to call ECU home as one of 20 freshmen entering the university this fall as an EC Scholar, the school's most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship program.
The 18-year-old from Wilmington is a student at Isaac Bear Early College High School with dual enrollment at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and is passionate about animals, conservation and protecting the environment. While at ECU, Jackson plans to major in biology with the possibility of pursuing a master's degree in zoology and working in a zoo or aquarium or as a conservationist.
"I chose ECU because of its warm and welcoming environment," said Jackson. "I wanted to go to a college where I would have room to learn and grow as a person, while also being able to express who I am without fear.
"I also admired ECU's academic environment, as I wanted to go somewhere where my peers and the faculty would motivate me to work my hardest but not so much that I would be too hard on myself," Jackson said.
While at ECU, Jackson is looking forward to getting involved with ECU's LGBT Resource Office, getting fit at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center with a goal of becoming scuba-certified, joining ECU clubs that are creative and explore poetry, art, reading, writing and painting, and spending time outdoors and with nature through kayaking and hiking.
Jackson is an intern at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher and has completed 200 volunteer hours, including the gopher frog reintroduction program that helped release more than 260 frogs back into their natural habitat. Jackson also spent more than 350 hours as an education volunteer teaching guests about exhibits while promoting conservation. This summer, Jackson will continue interning at the aquarium while working at Food Lion.
In high school, Jackson, who earned a 4.67 GPA, has been a participant in Teen Court, serving more than three years as a juror and a bailiff. Jackson also serves as a lab volunteer at UNC-W, assisting undergraduate and graduate students with microscope use, sample processing and data analysis for their research projects around the Wilmington waterways and beaches.
Jackson's leadership experiences include attending workshops and panels at the National Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, serving the community at events through the National Honor Society and tutoring students through Scholars United.
"To me, being an EC Scholar means dedicating myself to not just learning, but how I can use that knowledge to better my community," said Jackson. "I'll have to work hard, for sure, but in the end, the reward of helping the environment and others is worth it."
The four-year merit scholarship recognizes outstanding academic performance, commitment to community engagement and strong leadership skills. Recipients receive an Honors College scholarship for four years, along with a stipend for study abroad, for a total value of nearly $62,000.
Jackson is eyeing South Africa or Costa Rica as study abroad destinations where it may be possible to work with animals or learn more about them in their environment.
"I'd love to better understand how to ensure the health of animals in captivity," Jackson said. "It is important to constantly research new ways to care for animals. It is a field that is constantly changing as we learn more about how animals thrive in the wild and how to replicate that in captivity."
Jackson is the child of Catherine Brown Jackson.