Golden LEAF Scholarship alumnae Brooklyn Brown was born and raised in rural Swain County, on the Cherokee Indian Reservation. She currently lives in Swain County and works at the Cherokee One Feather as a reporter.
Brown graduated from Swain County High School as valedictorian, where she also played multiple sports including basketball, volleyball, softball and track. Her love for basketball made her a huge fan of the sport. Her affinity for UNC-Chapel Hill basketball helped her decide to continue cheering for the Tar Heels by attending UNC-Chapel Hill.
Brown said that at the beginning of her senior year her mother was very dedicated to her finding scholarships that would help Brown attend her college of choice.
“Literally every day of my senior year of high school my mother would come up with a new scholarship for me to apply to,” said Brown.
So when the Golden LEAF Scholarship was found by her mother she applied. Brown and one of her classmates were both awarded the scholarship. She recalls the feeling of importance she felt having a Golden LEAF representative come to her school to meet her, which stood out from other scholarships.
“I was asked what I wanted to do as a career and what was my plan,” said Brown. “The Golden LEAF Scholarship is the only scholarship that had that kind of interest in me.”
Brown visited UNC-Chapel Hill and said from her first time stepping on campus she could tell the environment was positive and welcoming. Even so, she was very nervous about leaving her indigenous community and wondered if she would find one at Chapel Hill.
“UNC has a very large indigenous community,” said Brown. “All eight tribes in North Carolina, including state and federally recognized tribes, are represented at Chapel Hill. I found my community immediately, which was very helpful. I was a part of the Carolina Indian Circle, which was our native student organization, and Alpha Pi Omega sorority, the country’s oldest Indigenous Greek letter organization, that was founded at UNC- Chapel Hill.”
Brown started her journey at Chapel Hill as an English major but any time that she walked past the media and journalism school it would capture her attention. She went back and forth with herself about whether she would be successful in that field.
“I would walk by it everyday on campus everyday and I kind of had ‘imposter syndrome’ of I could never get into that school,” said Brown.
After a push from her mother, Brown decided she would be a double major in English and Media and Communications.
Upon graduation from UNC-Chapel Hill, Brown worked through her next steps.
“I was looking for masters programs,” said Brown. “After looking at several great programs, I just kept coming back to the Cherokee Studies Program at Western Carolina University. Western Carolina University is only 20-30 minutes from where I’m from. I also wanted to spend more time with my family and be in my home community, so I applied to the Cherokee Studies Program and got in!”
In the fall of 2022 Brown finished her graduate degree and started teaching as an adjunct professor of American History at her alma mater, Western Carolina University. Although she was grateful for the experience of teaching, Brown wanted something geared more to her interests. When a communication specialist position became open in the marketing department of WCU she did not hesitate to apply.
“I want to be a journalist,” said Brown. “I want to write, and so a communications specialist position became available with the Western Carolina University marketing department, and I took it. It focused on university communications and marketing, including writing press releases, promotions, and university branding.”
While she loved her job as a communications specialist, Brown recently landed her dream job as a journalist for the Cherokee One Feather, her tribal newspaper.
She added that she has a sense of hope for her rural community.
“Our community has so many opportunities and resources now,” said Brown. “Organizations are invested in rural communities and know that we have talented intelligent people. I think there is a new wave of truly recognizing rural people.”