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Deferred Plans, Undeterred Spirits: Philanthropy Changes Students’ Trajectory

Wolf statues

All our plans were in place for our annual Celebration of Philanthropy: 225 RSVPs, check; food, flowers, seating arrangements, ditto. Our student panelists were nervous, but well prepared. They knew what they wanted to say about the impact your philanthropy has had on them. And then …

The coronavirus put a fast, hard stop to all our plans in mid-March, including the annual celebration of scholarship donors and the students who benefit from your generosity.

But it can’t touch the resilience of our students, or your commitment to support them.

We reached out to the four student scholarship recipients who were looking forward to speaking with many of you in March. We asked them to reflect on what has made their time at NC State special, how they’ve dealt with the COVID-enforced changes this semester, and what they’re looking forward to next. 

Katie Clark stands in front of the Belltower
Katie Clark

Katie Clark

Year: Freshman

Major: Communication (Public Relations concentration)

Hometown: Greensboro, NC

Scholarships: Remmey Family Dean’s Scholar; Jane and Crane Jones Scholarship

I just completed my first year at NC State, where I am studying communications (public relations) with a second major in Spanish. It is hard to imagine my life if I had not spent the past eight months at NC State. In less than a year, I have become best friends with once-strangers, found a new community around every corner, and have grown in so many ways.

From the first day of move-in, I felt an energy on campus that fueled me to take advantage of this fresh start. It was naturally a difficult transition, finally jump-starting a journey you have been looking forward to all your life, trying to force it to meet every expectation. But soon enough, I did not have to force anything. I became so comfortable at NC State and with the people there that I couldn’t even remember a time when it did not feel like home.

One of my favorite things is to walk through Talley and take in all the excitement. On any given day, I see students at tables for organizations they’re passionate about, young people praying over one another in One Earth, and smiling faces as people eat together on the second floor. There is always something to see, and it is amazing to feel at home in such a lively space. That goes for any activity at NC State, from tailgates to Cru [formerly Campus Crusade for Christ] meetings to large lectures, I truly have found a sense of belonging, and I end each day with something new to look forward to.

I am so grateful for the support of the faculty and donors for how they have made me feel wanted as a part of the Wolfpack. Their presence makes this huge university not seem so big after all, but rather a close and strong community that encourages me to succeed. Their COVID-19 response is a primary example of that support system I have felt from the first day of class. I cannot wait to be back on campus to make more connections, build more relationships, and take advantage of the unrivaled energy of the Wolfpack.

Headshot of Starr Gibens
Starr Gibens

Starr Gibens

Year: Sophomore

Major: Communication (Media concentration), Political Science (Law and Justice)

Hometown: Fort Washington, Maryland

Scholarships: William T. Kretzer Family Scholarship; Robert J. Pleasants Scholarship

Since my first day at NC State, I have been blessed with nothing but opportunities for growth. NC State professors and mentors have made substantial contributions to my professional development and are all exceptionally passionate about making sure that students succeed.

I have been able to serve in several leadership positions on campus and occupy spaces that I had never imagined before — from student organization executive boards, internships, and undergraduate research to even serving as creative director and producer of a podcast.

NC State, its resources and diversity, make being a first-generation college student worthwhile and consistently pushes me to my full potential. I look forward to serving as a Chancellor’s Aide next year, interacting with donors like you who have made my dreams possible, continuing to build a legacy of resilience and humility, and possibly even studying abroad.

The COVID-19 changes have been difficult for all of us, but they have also reminded me how grateful I am to be part of the Wolfpack and how grateful I am to have your support.

Safari Richardson during study abroad
Safari Richardson

Safari Richardson

Year: Senior

Major: Science, Technology and Society; Animal Science

Hometown: Greensboro, NC

Scholarships: Jean Kilgore Scholarship

Even in the midst of all the uncertainty and confusion surrounding the current pandemic, NC State made this “new normal” feel as normal as possible. Adjusting to having all my classes fully online and not being able to continue employment on campus has been difficult emotionally and financially, but the numerous resources offered by NC State have made the situation less stressful for me. I have been able to receive paid administrative leave, access the Student Emergency Fund, and grocery shop at the Feed the Pack food pantry during this time. All these resources helped me adapt to the changes, and I am grateful for resources being available to all students in a time of dire need.

NC State’s motto is “Think and Do,” and this motto has been applied during the pandemic and throughout my undergraduate career. The courses I took, friends I made, and experiences and opportunities I’ve had made my time at NC State so worthwhile. However, I won’t be leaving any time soon because I will be attending NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine in the Fall 2020 semester! I get to revel in continuing my education at NC State for another four years. I appreciate the journey I’ve taken at NC State these past four years, and I am super excited to start another chapter of my life right here where I belong: in the heart of Raleigh, North Carolina!

Walker Winslow during study abroad
Walker Winslow

Walker Winslow

Year: Junior

Major: International Studies

Hometown: Grifton, NC

Scholarships: Dean’s Scholar; Julia Skinner Award in Foreign Languages and Literatures; Mary Lee Taylor Memorial Scholarship

My experience at NC State has been extremely beneficial in preparing me for graduate school and a potential career in the international relations field.

As an international studies major, State gave me the broad foundational knowledge I need to succeed in future programs, and to make an impact in the global community. NC State professors don’t just focus on how policy affects lives, they focus on how culture and language in addition to government policy directives shape the world. Gaining an education that combines aspects of a variety of disciplines has had an immense impact on how I view policy and has given me the ability to understand intersectionality in a global context.

After my final semester at NC State, I hope to earn a master’s degree in strategic communications and study state-sponsored online propaganda. This is all due to professors introducing students like me to new topics that often are not covered in traditional political science or homeland security classes. Being able to understand how we communicate across cultures and boundaries will better prepare me to help spread peace and advocate for diplomacy in topics surrounding media freedom and media bias.

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