Golden LEAF Colleges and Universities Scholars graduate with plans to work in rural communities

Golden LEAF Colleges and Universities Scholars graduate with plans to work in rural communities

May 9, 2024

This spring, 168 Golden LEAF Scholars from rural counties are graduating from North Carolina colleges and universities. Many of these students have plans to return to a rural community to live and work. 

The Golden LEAF Colleges and Universities Scholarship is open to high school seniors and community college transfer students who reside in a qualifying rural, economically distressed North Carolina county and are planning to enroll full-time in a participating public or private college or university located in North Carolina. High school seniors entering college as first year students are eligible for a four-year scholarship totaling up to $14,000 ($3,500 a year for up to four years). Community college transfer students are eligible for $3,500 a year for up to 3 years. Golden LEAF Scholars communicate an intent to return to a rural North Carolina county after graduation from college.

Anna Everette of Beaufort County is graduating from East Carolina University with a degree in Elementary Education. Everette said the scholarship allowed her to stay committed to her rural community. 

“The Golden LEAF Scholarship not only financially supported my endeavors during college, but it also helped support my career decisions after college,” said Everette. “By easing the financial burden of college tuition and expenses, I was able to direct more of my attention to the rural community that I was raised in.”

She added that she is already employed in her home county.

“After college, I will begin working as an elementary school teacher in Beaufort County,” said Everette. “By beginning my career in a small, rural town where I was luckily able to complete my senior practicum, I will be able to continue making an impact on such a close knit community. I grew up in a surrounding city, and I want to continue contributing to the development of this area and the wonderful students that are housed at this school!”

J.T. Sandlin of Onslow County also plans to teach. He is graduating from Western Carolina University this Spring as a Music Education major. His immediate plans include continuing his education.

“My plan after college is to attend UNC-Greensboro for a master’s degree in Music Performance,” said Sandlin. “After I get my graduate degree, I will be working in a North Carolina public school teaching band, while also freelancing as a horn player.”

Sandlin said the Golden LEAF Scholarship he received was instrumental in his college experience.

“The Golden LEAF Scholarship helped to drastically reduce the financial stress of my undergraduate experience,” said Sandlin. “Coming to college without any family contribution was very scary, and there was a lot of anxiety around not being able to afford an education without taking out a huge amount of loans. Because of the Golden LEAF Scholarship, those anxieties were taken away, allowing me to focus on my academic and musical experiences without stressing about my current and future financial situations. I am now graduating from college with an impressively minimal amount of undergraduate student debt.”

Golden LEAF Scholarship recipient Chelsea Walters of Burke County will also continue her education, while she works in a rural hospital. She will be graduating from Gardner-Webb University this spring with a major in Nursing.

“After I pass the NCLEX, I will be working as a psychiatric nurse in a rural hospital,” said Walters. “I am excited to provide care for an area and population that tends to be underserved, especially when it comes to mental health care. I will also be returning to Gardner-Webb University this fall to continue my education. I will be working toward my Doctor of Nursing Practice to become a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. My goal is to continue to provide care for North Carolinians who may not have been given the opportunity to have a supportive provider who was available to them in their area.”

Walters also was able to participate in the Rural Internship Initiative through the Golden LEAF Scholarship Program. 

“The summer after my freshman year of college, I was a shadowing intern in the operating room at my local rural hospital,” said Walters. “I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and had so many experiences that I would not have gotten, even through nursing school. I went into the internship wanting to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), but soon learned that the operating room environment was not for me. I wanted more patient interaction and to get to know my patients as people. This therefore led me to consider psychiatric nursing, which requires you to look at the entire person and care for them on multiple levels. While I may not be working in the same field that I did my internship in, I did learn a lot about the nursing role and was led down the path I was meant to be on!”

Visit the Golden LEAF Scholarship Program website to learn more about how to apply, eligibility requirements, and application deadlines.

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