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Scholarship Support Helps Holly Small ’23 Pursue Goal of Providing Elementary School Students With STEM Experiences

Every weekday, Holly Small ‘23 wakes up at 5:30 a.m. and heads to work at Conn Magnet Elementary School, in Raleigh, where she is the YMCA site coordinator for the school’s before- and after-school programs. 

After spending her morning making sure the students get checked into school, the junior elementary education major attends classes of her own at the NC State College of Education before returning to Conn Magnet Elementary at 3 p.m. and staying until 7 p.m. to help with check-out and Y Learning, an after school tutoring program. 

It’s a full day but, for Small, it’s a necessary way to help pay for school. She does not receive financial support from her parents for her tuition, and FAFSA’s financial calculations do not take into consideration parents who make money but do not contribute to their child’s education. 

“It’s very difficult, but you do what you have to, and you get it done,” Small said. “I think it would be different if I didn’t love it, but I’m working with kids, and it doesn’t even feel like work half the time, so it’s something I love.”

While balancing her job with her academics is challenging, Small has been fortunate enough to receive two scholarships through the College of Education: the Carlone, Godwin, Stone Scholarship and the Carl J. Dolce Scholarship. The scholarships have provided needed financial assistance and encouraged her as she pursues her goal of becoming an elementary school teacher.

“It means a lot to me,” Small said. “I’m so grateful for people who see the impact teachers have on our youth and are willing to help aid students who just want to give back to those kids.”

Small, a first-generation college student, grew up in rural Walberg, North Carolina, where she received little STEM education until middle school. When she came to the NC State College of Education, she was inspired by the elementary education program’s STEM focus.

“To be here, and be able to learn about ways that I can give kids experiences in STEM at an early age, and get them inspired or show them that there are career options, that is super cool to me,” Small said. “The STEM concentration was the main factor that brought me to NC State.”

Not only does Small want to be the teacher who provides her students with STEM experiences, but she also wants to be the teacher who builds strong, lasting relationships.

“I just want to be able to give back to students who need support in their lives,” Small said. “Because for me, it was the teachers who supported me.”

While working and going to school full time can be difficult, Small’s time at Conn Magnet Elementary is already giving her a head start on supporting students. Small said working with the before- and after-school programs is helping shape her into a confident educator.

“I can’t even tell you how much that job means to me,” Small said. “The people who work there, my directors and everything, have really changed who I am.”

Small is excited to bring the skills she’s developing into the classroom, and she’s appreciative of the support she’s received, from co-workers, faculty and scholarships, along the way.

“I just feel thankful that I’m going to be able to do something I love for the rest of my life, and there are people who are willing to help me do that,” Small said.