Name: Tate Thomason
High School Attended: Robbinsville High School
Home County: Graham
College Attended/ Years Attended: Western Carolina University (Graduated December 2015)
Major: Hospitality & Tourism Management
County Now Living In: Graham
Employer: State Employees’ Credit Union
Title: Financial Services Officer
Years Working for Current Employer: 3 years
What were some of your major accomplishments during college?
Just attending college was a major accomplishment in itself because I was the first in my family to attend college and graduate. I came from an extremely rural area and was raised by my grandparents and my great grandmother who couldn’t even read or write. I was on the Dean’s list and a member of Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society. I walked across the stage to receive my diploma. These will always be some of the greatest accomplishments of my life.
What would you tell someone interested in applying for the Golden LEAF Scholarship about being a recipient?
Bet on yourself and be your own biggest fan. Many students from rural communities do not feel we get the same opportunities as others, but it is up to us to make our own path without changing who we are. Golden LEAF changed my life and allowed me the financial freedom to be able to attend school without taking on debt and also to be a part of an amazing community of other scholars from similar backgrounds who could understand where I was coming from.
What helped you decide to live and work in a rural area?
The credit union is super involved with the communities we work in, and I take pride in being able to help local people with their finances, build their credit, and accomplish goals such as owning their first home. Being a local face that they know and can trust is what makes me want to go above and beyond for my community. I currently try to stay active in my community when I can. One of the things I am most proud of was working with our local community college and Snowbird Library to do an evening Adult GED program to help people obtain their high school equivalency diplomas. Being in rural N.C., many times our parents and grandparents had to put their lives and dreams on the back burner to raise a family. I thoroughly enjoy getting to see people accomplish their goals and being a part of their successes.
What is your hope for rural North Carolina?
My hope for rural N.C. is that we can embrace modernization while still holding onto our homegrown pride. Having new resources or upgrading current resources does not mean we have to lose out on charm or our roots. My own hometown of Robbinsville is just now embracing tourism after decades of no growth after tobacco and factory work long left the town. For example, we have recently begun revitalizing our downtown and really promoting ourselves. Improved infrastructure and marketing could help rural N.C. communities reach their potential.
What does rural mean to you?
Rural is home. My rural community is resilient. I used to think rural meant country but now I know it means comfort (but you definitely aren’t going to have good internet).