Combining service, engineering to support veterans
Tori Plyler wasn’t sure how exactly to prepare for her scholarship interview at East Carolina University in March.
Guided through the weekend by a current Honors College student, she chatted with people and explored the campus, but she only prepared for one question: If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead, who would it be? Fortunately, that was the question she got.
Plyler, 17, said she would have dinner with former President John F. Kennedy because he “really knew how to promote morale and bring people together around a cause.” The panel must have liked her answer. Plyler will be one of 19 incoming freshmen entering ECU in August as EC Scholars – the most prestigious academic scholarship program the university offers.
“I cried,” Plyler said of getting the scholarship. “It was like the whole world exhaled around me. I have a way to pay for college and it’s not going to be a burden. My only job will be to go to school.”
Plyler intends to study biomedical engineering at ECU, and may later pursue a medical degree. She’s interested in development of prosthetic limbs and skin to benefit veterans returning from war. Better care for their physical condition can help heal their psyche too, she believes.
Combining service and military support is a great fit for Plyler, who was an officer in her high school’s Marine JROTC program and will graduate with over 500 hours of community service. She also participated in the Beta Club and Service Club, was captain of the varsity tennis team, swam, and threw shotput at track and field competitions.
Coming from a two-stoplight town, Plyler said she is looking forward to joining ECU’s close-knit engineering program, which is growing but remains small enough to ensure plenty of one-on-one time with faculty. She also expects to fit in well with the other EC Scholars. The attitudes of the current scholars impressed her when she visited campus.
“It’s not a cutthroat competition,” she explained. “They bring each other up together.”
Plyler is no stranger to ECU. Her dad and his three siblings attended the university. She can’t wait to join in “the famous ECU tailgating” during football season - even if her parents are threatening to buy season tickets and come keep an eye on her.
“They promised I won’t have to sit with them every time,” she said, laughing.
At least Plyler knows she can get away when she studies abroad. All EC Scholars are given a stipend so they can study internationally while attending ECU. And though her mother is pushing for Italy or Australia, Plyler feels drawn to the developing world.
“I want to learn to better appreciate things (we have in America),” she said.
She is the daughter of Marty and Leslie Plyler.
-- Kathryn Kennedy