On Saturday, January 23rd, more than 250 Golden LEAF Scholarship recipients attended a virtual conference to build their leadership knowledge and skills. The Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program conference is typically held in person over two and half days; however, due to the pandemic, the conference was scaled back to core leadership training skills and transitioned to a virtual format. Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton welcomed the scholars, attended the third-year conference session, and closed out the day.
Although the scholars were not able to meet in person this year, they were still able to meet and greet in small groups virtually. The Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program has served 1,212 Golden LEAF Scholarship recipients over 11 years, helping them to grow leadership skills and connect with their home communities through internships and other community projects.
At the conference, 36 fourth-year scholars were acknowledged through a video showing where they plan to take their next steps after college. Click here to watch the video and learn more about these Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program participants.
The Golden LEAF staff had the opportunity to connect with several of the scholars. Check out their stories below:
Honiah Locklear of Robeson County is a freshman at North Carolina State University studying neurology. Locklear joined the Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program to add to her college experiences and boost her resume.
“I knew that I wanted to be involved within a student organization, and the leadership program seemed like the perfect opportunity to enhance my college resume,” said Locklear. “The Golden LEAF Scholarship has allowed me to not only meet extraordinary people, but also provided me with the funding to get a quality education that will help me in my future endeavors.”
This was Locklear’s first conference, and she was looking forward to connecting with other conference attendees.
“I have learned that simply being aware and present in meetings and social engagements will allow you to make connections that can be life-changing,” said Locklear.
Locklear wants to become a pediatric neurosurgeon in Robeson County and focus on chronic migraines.
Maia Antoniou of Randolph County is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro studying psychology. Antoniou joined the Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program because she wanted to learn how to become a leader in her community.
“I wanted to understand how to provide opportunities for my friends and family who struggle in rural North Carolina,” said Antoniou. “I have learned how to be a leader in my home community. I have also learned how to trust in the person that I am, and I am proud of where I come from. There is no doubt in my mind that I have the ability to lead people and learn from everyone around me to solve the issues of my generation. The leadership program has guided me to find my voice and use it to speak up for others.”
After graduating from UNC-G, Antoniou plans to apply to Physician Assistant graduate school in North Carolina and become a physician assistant working in cardiothoracic surgery.
Michael Wells of Alamance County is a senior at North Carolina Wesleyan College studying accounting. He decided to join the Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program because he was really excited to grow as a leader.
“At first, I didn’t know what to think about the program, but once I attended the first conference, I knew that this program was definitely something that I wanted to be a part of for the next three years,” said Wells. “It has helped me gain invaluable experiences through the summer internships.”
Wells has learned more about his leadership style over his three years with the Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program.
“I’ve learned I am a great motivator in getting people to want to do things,” said Wells. “I have learned that a great leader just doesn’t tell someone to do something, but they actually get dirty and actually help show someone how to do it while leading the team. A great leader will listen more and offer more advice when a teammate or coworker needs it.”
Wells plans on becoming an accountant and eventually becoming a certified public accountant (CPA) and an auditor.