By Brittney Collins, Golden LEAF Scholarship Program Intern
Since 2000, Golden LEAF has awarded approximately 6,000 scholarships to students from rural communities who are graduating with the skills, passion, and leadership experiences to help their home communities thrive. This year, 120 Golden LEAF Scholars are graduating from a North Carolina college or university.
“I am so proud of all of our Golden LEAF Scholar graduates,” said Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton. “These students have gained valuable knowledge and skills that they will use to help their rural communities for years to come. Congratulations to the graduating class of 2023!”
Learn more about a few of these scholars and their plans after graduation.
Cierra Harrison of Northampton County is a 2023 graduate of Duke University with a major in Science. Cierra plans to do two years in clinical research, followed by attending medical school for cardiology or nephrology.
“I plan to work in a rural area because access to healthcare in rural areas is something that is lacking and more specialties are needed in rural areas,” said Harrison.
Harrison learned from an internship opportunity through the Golden LEAF Scholarship Program that doctors in all specialties are needed in rural areas due to limited staff.
“The Golden LEAF Scholarship allowed me to partake in the leadership program which provided resources for me to grow as a leader and community member,” said Harrison. “I learned ways to be efficient, recognize my strengths and weaknesses, and was able to do a project that made an impact on my community. I also formed bonds with other amazing scholars and coaches during the four years.”
Alex Martinez of Alamance County is a 2023 graduate of Pfeiffer University, where he majored in Health Science.
Martinez shares how the Golden LEAF Scholarship has helped him through his educational journey.
“It is an honor to be a recipient of the Golden LEAF Scholarship Program among the other talented scholars,” said Martinez. “It has helped me pay for college and alleviate financial stress. This scholarship has allowed me to focus on my studies and has prepared me for graduate school. Thanks to this scholarship I am one step closer to achieving my educational and career goals.”
Martinez plans to attend ECU’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program in the summer in hopes of becoming a physical therapist in rural NC.
“I look forward to giving back to this profession in rural communities, especially in my hometown!” said Martinez. “I want to give back to my community because I was once that kid that had limited access and lack of resources. Burlington has given me everything I needed and more to succeed and take my education to the next level. I plan to one day open my own clinic to serve the underserved population, Spanish speaking community and the people who lack insurance.”
Alyssa Rowe of Jackson County is a 2023 graduate of Western Carolina University. She is graduating with a major in Health Science.
After graduation she plans on attending ECU for her Master’s in Speech Pathology. She believes there is a need for quality healthcare in rural N.C. and would like to be a part of that.
Rowe shares how the Golden LEAF Scholarship has motivated her to work hard.
“The Golden LEAF Scholarship helped me during college by providing me with networking opportunities with professionals in and outside my field of study,” said Rowe. “One of the best networking opportunities that Golden LEAF provided me was an internship in my field of study between my junior and senior year of college. This endeavor allowed me to learn from talented speech pathologists and work in a speech therapy private practice full-time during the summer. After the summer ended, I was blessed to have received a part-time job offer from my supervisor to continue working there. I have worked there throughout my entire senior year of college, and the relationships I have created with my coworkers and the clients and their families are truly something I will carry with me throughout my career as a reminder of what we can accomplish in rural communities when we work together. ”
Rowes’ Golden LEAF Internship gave her unique interactions and changed her perspective for the better.
Golden LEAF will be announcing the 2022-2023 Golden LEAF Scholarship recipients in June. For more information on the Golden LEAF Scholarship Program, visit scholars.goldenleaf.org.