Staff Spotlight: Arlena Dongilli

Staff Spotlight: Arlena Dongilli

November 9, 2023

Briefly describe your role at Golden LEAF.
In my role as the Scholarship Program Manager, I lead the implementation of the Golden LEAF Scholarship Program, including leading outreach and engagement efforts for both our Community Colleges Scholarship and Colleges and University Scholarship.

Describe yourself in three words.
Empathetic. Planner. Creative.

What’s your favorite part of your job and why?
My favorite part of my job is when I have the opportunity to be on campus and visit our Golden LEAF Scholars. Gracious chancellors and presidents at colleges throughout the state have offered to host gatherings of Golden LEAF Scholars on their campuses. These gatherings allow Golden LEAF Board and staff and college and university officials to meet and get to know scholars, as well as, scholars to be able to meet each other. I really enjoy these events because we get to learn more about our scholars, their backgrounds, what they’re up to, and their passions. We also build connections with them throughout their collegiate career so they will stay connected with Golden LEAF and other scholars as alumni.

What is your favorite pastime outside of work?
Outside of work, I love to read. I also love to do arts and crafts. I have a Cricut Vinyl cutting machine that I like to make T-shirts, mugs, decals, and anything that gets the creative part of me working.

What is your biggest work-related accomplishment within the last year?
My biggest work-related accomplishment is strengthening our engagement with scholars. Golden LEAF now has a plan for how we engage scholars from the very beginning when they are notified they are scholarship recipients through their post-graduate collegiate experience as they become alumni. We send emails congratulating them. They have an opportunity to meet Scott, our President. They receive a welcome box from us. We meet with them throughout their college journey at Scholar events or if they participate in our internship program, and then once they become a senior in college, we reach back out to congratulate them on their graduation and send a small token of appreciation and just share our excitement for the next part of their journey. When a student becomes a Golden LEAF Scholar, their entire college career includes a cycle of Golden LEAF support, from the very beginning of their collegiate journey all the way to becoming an alumni.

What motivates you to support long-term economic development in rural, tobacco-dependent, and economically distressed communities?
I’m from a small North Carolina community, and I truly believe my community made me who I am today. I see that a lot in our scholars. When someone says the word “rural” people tend to think of all the deficits and limited resources, but there’s so much potential and power in rural communities. As a former educator and as someone now who gets the privilege to interact with Golden LEAF Scholars, I believe more than ever that rural communities hold a critical role in the growth of our state.

Learn more about Arlena Dongilli.

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