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Three Students Awarded First Angela C. Caraway Scholarships

From left: April Gonzalez, Janiya "Starr" Gibens, and Kendall Griffith

The selection committee for the newly-established Angela C. Caraway and Family Scholarship is delighted to name the scholarship’s first three recipients:

Starr Gibens, communications and political science

April Gonzalez, chemical engineering

Kendall Griffith, sociology and environmental studies

Courtney Simpson, senior director of TRIO Student Support Services, is on the scholarship selection committee. She said the committee received more than 100 applicants and took into account three criteria:

  1. The students are participants in the TRIO Student Support Services or TRIO Ronald E. McNair programs, where most are first-generation college students and are also financially under-resourced. 
  2. They come from a rural North Carolina county.
  3. They are exceptional students and very active on campus.

“It was exciting to recognize students who have overcome so many obstacles and challenges in relation to what more mainstream, multi-generation college attending students experience. For first-generation college students, it may not be as easy to navigate a large competitive residential university like NC State. They are trying to understand what it is to be a college student, and being a scholar, and being actively engaged on campus,” Simpson said.

Starr Gibens One Step Closer to Fulfilling Dreams

“Words cannot explain what it feels like to know that someone believes in you and your dreams so much that they are willing to financially support you. Money cannot buy dreams, but it can make a dream more accessible. Receiving the Angela C. Caraway Scholarship allows me to stay enrolled at NC State with minimal student loans,” Gibens said. “Supportive faculty and staff have been an integral part of my success at NC State thus far, and scholarships like the Angela C. Caraway Scholarship are what keep me here and allow me to continue my educational experience. 

“Receiving the Angela C. Caraway Scholarship, a scholarship specifically for underrepresented students, means that I can stress a little less about financial burdens and learn a little more, the way that every student deserves,” Gibens continued. “This Scholarship is symbolic of the motivation and affirmation students like me need to keep pushing forward. Failure is not an option for me, and the Angela C. Caraway Scholarship places me one step closer to becoming a first-generation college graduate, to becoming a law student, to becoming an acclaimed advocate for others, and to having the resources to support others the way that Angela Caraway and her family have done.”

Gibens is double majoring in political science, with a concentration in law and justice, and communication media studies. She serves on the executive board for NC State’s NAACP and Society of Afrikan American Culture and has had the extraordinary opportunity to produce TRIO’s podcast, Beyond the Belltower.

Scholarship Enables April Gonzalez to Focus Energy Where it Matters

Gonzalez said she is beyond grateful to have received this scholarship because of the opportunity to excel in her academic, professional, and extracurricular ventures to the best of her abilities. 

“The opportunity to have been awarded this scholarship has enabled me to focus on studying, networking, learning, and achieving life goals rather than worrying about the cost of attendance. Academically, this scholarship has empowered me to give back to my community as an engineering ambassador, through the Society of Hispanic Professionals, and as a Chancellor’s Aide. Through my affiliation with student organizations on campus, I strive to influence incoming freshman and high school students to see the endless possibilities that NC State can provide to students like myself and to feel proud to be a part of the Wolfpack.”

Kendall Griffith Putting Energy into Work that Advances Her Studies

Griffith is a sociology major, minoring in environmental science and art studies. “In my work with the Ronald E. McNair Scholars research project, I’m looking at criminal justice for youth and the effects of education and employment on this system,” Griffith explained.

Griffith is very active with TRIO in creating enriching opportunities on campus, including last year’s hip hop project that featured open mic concerts, poets, live instrumentalists, dancers, singers, and a live band.

“I was really surprised that I was awarded this scholarship — it’s nice to know that someone noticed me,” Griffith said. “This was even more important than receiving the funding. I was able to quit my desk job so I can put my energy into paid research at a school that is related to my studies and continue supporting campus life activities.”

Impact of Scholarship Far-Reaching

Simpson said there were so many amazing students who applied. “We considered how the applying students responded, the obstacles they’ve faced and have overcome, and how committed they are to complete their degree.

“The impact of Angela’s gift is far-reaching,” Simpson continued. “It takes into consideration that the students who apply for it are first-generation or going to be from rural backgrounds. The message it sends is ‘I value your experience and who you are!’ The obstacle for many is having enough funding so that these students can participate fully in the college experience.”

The message it sends is ‘I value your experience and who you are!’

In this time of COVID-19, racial injustice, racism, and more, Simpson says to people — particularly alumni and friends of NC State — who say they want to do something to help students, that now is the time.

“We see the incredible impact a scholarship can have on students,” she said. “Ask yourself: how can I be more visible? What can I do? If financial giving isn’t possible now, sign up to volunteer as a mentor. Be a guest speaker for an event. Host a (socially distant) dinner for students. Angela’s scholarship is a catalyst that’s calling for all of us to step up. The students need to see us, hear us, and know we are present.”

Simpson recognizes the value of diversifying the NC State student body through first-generation students. “We recruit them and want to see them be successful. To do this, we’ve got to put funding behind it. Angela is a great mentor to us all,” she said. “I know the value of NC State, and I had a great experience. I want to give time and energy — and financial support — back to those first-generation students who are just like me’.”

This post was originally published in DASA.