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NC State College of Education Students Share the Impact of Scholarships on Their Educational Journey, How Financial Support Has Changed Their Lives

New wolf statue on central campus.

Scholarships lower financial barriers and allow students in the NC State College of Education to attend college and engage in life-shaping experiences that prepare them to become extraordinary educators.

College of Education students Eric Wylie, Juan Cortes and Elyse Smith share their stories and how financial support has impacted their lives and their academic experience.

Eric Wylie

Eric Wylie

Sophomore, Elementary Education

Scholarship: Dorothy E. and Robert W. Tart, Jr. Scholarship

I am financially responsible for all of my college costs. I applied to seven schools and for every scholarship possible. I was trying to cast as wide a net as I could. The first six universities that I heard from came with a price tag of $15,000 or more per year. I was considering attending a community college for a couple of years so that I could save up before transferring to a four-year university, but before I finalized that decision, I heard from NC State.

With the scholarships they offered me, attending NC State suddenly became more affordable than going to Wake Tech. And this allowed me to become part of the Wolfpack. I felt like a huge burden had been lifted off me. If it weren’t for my scholarship, there is no chance that I could be paying for any four-year university right now, let alone one as prestigious as NC State.

I very quickly found my place in the university. I sing in the all-male a cappella group, Grains of Time, and I’ve decided to work toward an add-on certification in English as a Second Language (ESL) education. And I’ve been able to keep up with a couple of my high school activities. For three years, I’ve been a mentor at Neighbor2Neighbor, an after-school program where kids can come for tutoring in math and English, as well as enrichment classes in sports, cooking, coding or anything else they’re interested in. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

To cover the remaining bill after my scholarship and grants, I’m working in the after-school care program at a local elementary school. I am incredibly appreciative for my scholarship because it is enabling me to have this excellent education which I had deemed impossible for myself.

Education is the most pressing issue that faces every generation. The preparation and enabling of future leaders, politicians, engineers, teachers, scientists and citizens is critical to our success and progression as a species. I’m eager to play my part in this area, and I’m confident that through NC State, I will be as ready as possible to make a difference in my classroom.

Juan Cortes

Juan Cortes

M.Ed. Candidate, College Counseling and Student Development

Scholarship: Beatrice and Roy Anderson Scholarship

Going to UC Berkeley [for my undergraduate degree] was an eye-opening moment, where my insecurities about being poor truly came out. I went through Berkeley always feeling like I was a charity case, working hard to ensure that I didn’t fail and give people the chance to say that they were right and that I didn’t belong there. I never felt like my merits were earned, but were propped up by this systematic belief that I can only succeed if I have help and not that I earned everything I worked for.

When I got into grad school at NC State to pursue my master’s in college counseling, I was surprised to find that I was given the Beatrice and Roy Anderson Scholarship for outstanding academic achievement, and a switch flipped in my mind. This scholarship did something that I could not do on my own — it allowed me to value the work that I have put in to myself because it showed me that others validate my work as well.

This motivation helped me go through my first semester with confidence and allowed me to get to know the other graduate students of the Pack and their generosity and compassion. Attaining this scholarship doesn’t fully pay my tuition, but it does something better than that. It allows me to buy into myself and my abilities to succeed because the Andersons bought into me through their generosity. It allowed me to travel through my past and reflect on the journey that took me here, as well as to reframe my legacy as one of perseverance.

I will use my experience to aid college students in navigating their educational journey. For low-income, first-generation students, I will help ease their stigma of being poor and be the person who guides them into the middle class and beyond.

Elyse Smith with Dr. Lee Stiff

Elyse Smith

Ph.D. Candidate, Learning and Teaching in STEM

Scholarship: Agnes and Garfield Stiff Endowment

As Ph.D. students in the College of Education, we are motivated and encouraged to present at conferences, have research published and network with faculty, staff and other graduate students in our college and at the university. Conferences give students like me that opportunity and the Agnes and Garfield Stiff Endowment provides me the financial ability to do it. Thanks to scholarships like the Agnes and Garfield Stiff Endowment, I have been afforded the opportunity to attend and present at national conferences. I was able to travel to New York and California for two important conferences in my field of STEM education.

Presenting at and attending these conferences gets my name out there to the “powers that be,” so that when I do make that leap into my next career as the U.S. Secretary of Education, most people will be rallying for me because they have seen my presentations and published work and know I am about actual change for all students, specifically related to how our current educational system and structure impacts the racial and mathematical identities of the growing population of racially minoritized student learners.

As a former public school student, I have been that racially minoritized student who was told I shouldn’t be in a particular math class or I can’t perform or expect to actually do well in math. However, of all the people who tried to stifle my dreams, there were twice as many that encouraged and cheered me on.

I truly love the College of Education at NC State — from our building, Poe Hall, to Dean Mary Ann Danowitz, to the faculty and staff, and most importantly my classmates, my cohort and colleagues who all provide a listening ear, intellectual dialogue, an encouraging word or three and/or are that empathic friend who gets this journey to Ph.D. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for the generous financial support to this college and my future.