Walking to my car after working at one of my after school jobs, I received an email saying I was being awarded the Benjamin F. Ward Scholarship. There in the middle of the parking lot, I could not help but cry tears of relief and thankfulness. As I applied for college, I did not really know what my options were — my family recently suffered a stint of unemployment, and I knew I would be footing the bill of my higher education on my own, at least for a while. I often felt unsure if I was making the right decisions, and as I looked closer at the price tags of the schools that interested me most, I felt overwhelmed. College was (and still is) expensive.
But despite this all, I made my decision, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in college so far. During my first semester at Meredith College, I quickly took advantage of many of the opportunities the school offers. I joined the student newspaper, became active in the Teaching Fellows and Honors Programs, and served on a residence hearing committee. Participating in Meredith’s unique tradition called Cornhuskin’ proved to be one of the highlights of my year, and having the chance to enjoy that event with my friends was priceless.
I definitely met some challenges during my first semester too. I took a full course load, and I tried my best to juggle a busy schedule with homework, working, and extracurricular activities. I became frustrated with myself for not liking the major I thought I would love, and even after investigating creating my own major, I struggled to find an academic plan that best suited my interests and passions. Throughout the rest of my freshman year, I was blessed to take part in multiple formative experiences. I earned a paid-internship with a communications firm in downtown Raleigh, was accepted into a summer study abroad program in Costa Rica, and received a prestigious scholarship by the U.S. State Department that paid for the majority of my study abroad trip. By the end of my freshman year, I felt well-adjusted to college life, and thoroughly grateful due to the opportunities presented to me.
While I was undecided about my desired career path, what really helped me decide on a career was my community service experience both in high school and college. I have always valued the importance of giving back to the community, especially due to my involvement in Girl Scouts and my church’s student ministry. Furthermore, I spent much of my time supporting other students at my high school during my senior year. I worked one-on-one with students to improve their writing abilities, and during the second half of my senior year, a sizable amount of my time was dedicated towards fighting for an undocumented immigrant classmate’s release from a detention center and his right to graduate. And now during college, I spend at least 20 hours each semester serving in classrooms at my former high school and at a local elementary school.
When I struggled with finding a major and a career path that best suited me, the education field just kept calling my name. Throughout my life I have been blessed with innumerable privileges and opportunities, so I have always wanted to do my best to give back to the community that has supported me so much. I am still in the process of deciding exactly what I want to teach, but I know that no other career field could make me happier than the field of education. I am positive that I will best be able to use my strengths and passions to educate and empower students, and I am excited to have a classroom of my own in a few years.
I doubt that I could ever find the words to truly describe how thankful I am for the support that the Triangle Community Foundation and the Benjamin F. Ward Scholarship have given me. This scholarship put college in reach for me, and I know that without that support, I would not have accomplished and experienced as much as I have so far during my college career. I am eternally grateful.
Contributing writer Morgan Whithaus is the 2016 (and very first!) recipient of the Benjamin F. Ward Scholarship at Triangle Community Foundation, focused on honor Mr. Ward’s lifelong commitment to community service.