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Meet 20 future teachers from Eastern NC receiving NC State scholarships to teach in the region

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NC State University this month announced this school year’s 20 recipients of the College of Education’s Transformational Scholarships Program.

The students will receive $40,000 each over their time in school, plus mentorship and professional development opportunities, study-abroad stipends, and field experiences. They will then return to the eastern part of the state to teach for at least two years.

“I love how the whole idea of being a Transformational Scholar involves giving back to the community,” said Dariana De Leon, a member of this year’s cohort from Edgecombe County. “I will be a part of innovation and change. I can’t wait to start on my education journey as a future educator.”

The program was launched in the fall of 2021 through a donation from the Anonymous Trust. Its aim is to diversify the teacher pipeline by focusing its recruitment on economically distressed counties.

The $7.25 million is being spread over five years to “prepare 100 teachers for counties in Eastern North Carolina with fewer resources but greater needs,” a 2021 press release said.

This year’s cohort represents 10 counties in the east. Thirteen of the 20 students are elementary education majors. Two are mathematics education majors, two are science education majors, two are middle grades language arts and social studies education majors, and one is a technology, engineering, and design major, according to a press release from the College of Education.

“The second cohort of Transformational Scholars is an impressive group passionate about sparking change and innovation in Eastern North Carolina, making a significant and constructive contribution to their community and giving back to a region that has given them so much,” said Trisha Mackey, director of the program, in the release. “They each bring a unique perspective on what it means to be a transformational educator. I believe that they will add to the energy and synergy of the program and will make a difference in the lives of their future students by being authentic and empathetic educators.”

Here are the recipients and their bios from the college.

Elementary education majors

Emily Biggs will graduate from Cleveland High School in Johnston County. Emily is a member of the varsity tennis team, varsity and JV basketball team, and club soccer team. In her free time, she tutors elementary school students, coaches a younger girls’ soccer team, and dogsits.

Alyssa Darden will graduate from Corinth Holders High School in Johnston County. Alyssa participates in Key Club, Technology Student Association, and Clayton Youth Council. She was the junior class representative. She was also in the National African American Recognition Program as a 2022-2023 Scholar, Summer Ventures In Science and Mathematics, and National Honors Society.

Emerson Fipps will graduate from South Central High School in Pitt County. Emerson was on the varsity tennis and swim teams. She was the SGA freshman class president, was in the Math and Science Honors Society, National Honors Society and Link Crew, and served as a junior marshal. She volunteers at ECU Health and the Howell Center. She has served as a speaker at Students Against Destructive Decisions events and is a peer helper in adaptive PE.

Isabella (Bella) Gonzalez will graduate from Eugene Ashley High School in Brunswick County. Bella is a stage manager and volunteers at Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard and was a camp counselor at Thalian Association.

Skylar Harrison will graduate from North Lenoir High School in Lenoir County. Skylar plays softball and was inducted into the North Lenoir HS Hall of Fame.

Kristen (Taylor) Herring will graduate from Wallace Rose Hill High School in Duplin County. Kristen serves as the senior class president and co-captain of the volleyball team.

Elise Hines will graduate from Edgecombe Early College High School in Edgecombe County. At NC State, Elise plans to major in elementary education. Elise participates in the Scholar Teachers Program. She is also a kindergarten and first-grade camp counselor, dance teacher assistant, youth mentor, Writing Center team member, Yearbook Team member, EECHS Global Project member, and Distinguished Young Women of Edgecombe County participant.

Kate Hudgins will graduate from Rocky Mount Academy in Nash County. Kate is a member of the Key Club, National Honor Society, and Spanish National Honor Society. She is the Captain of the softball and cross country teams. She is also in the Student Government Association.

Laci Lucas will graduate from Clinton High School in Sampson County. Laci is a member of the Dark Horse Fellows. She also volunteers with Backyard Buddies DayCare and does trash pick-up.

Kayleigh Stewart will graduate from Harnett Central High School in Harnett County. She is a cheerleader, works at Kidszone Academy (Daycare Center), and has done a mission trip with Buies Creek First Baptist.

Camilla Torres will graduate from East Duplin High School in Duplin County. Camilla has volunteered with the Health Science Academy and is a cheerleader.

Lily Williams will graduate from Clinton High School in Sampson County. Lily has worked at a daycare and has participated in marching band, student government, yearbook, and swim team. She is also a member of the National Honors Society and Fellowship of Christian Students, and has served as Sampson Community College Career and College Promise Ambassador.

Virginia Vuncannon will be graduating from Western Harnett High School in Harnett County. She is a dancer and has served on the Student Government Association, and the Senior Committee, Western Welcoming Committee. She is a member of Future Business Leaders of America, Spring Hill United Methodist Youth, National Technical Honors Society, and BETA club.

Science education majors

Gillian Grimmick will graduate from Smithfield-Selma High School in Johnston County. Gillian is in the International Baccalaureate program and was inducted into the National Honors Society. She served as a junior marshal.

James (Matt) Tarpey will graduate from Harnett Central High School in Harnett County. Matt is a member of the varsity football team.

Mathematics education majors

Dariana De Leon will graduate from Edgecombe Early College High School in Edgecombe County. Dariana is a participant in the Scholar Teacher program. She also participates in journalism and Writing Center, and serves as an Engineering Camp counselor. Dariana participated in the Leadership Institute for Future Teachers (LIFT) at NC State in the summer of 2021.

Lacey Warren will be graduating from Midway High School in Sampson County. Lacey is a varsity cheerleader and a member of the Student Government Association, Family Career and Community Leaders of America, and National Beta Club. She does community service and worship band, and is a caregiver.

Middle grades language arts & social studies majors

Mary Ledford will graduate from Gray’s Creek High School in Cumberland County. Mary is involved in the North Carolina Association of Student Councils Executive Board, the North Carolina Association of Student Councils, the Gray’s Creek High School Student Government Association, the Gray’s Creek High School Diversity Club, the Gray’s Creek High School Orchestra, and the Grays Creek High School Academy of Scholars.

Joshua Webb will be graduating from Edgecombe Early College High School and resides in Nash County. Josh is a member of the Scholar Teachers Program, is a swim coach, and has served as a lead camp counselor.

Technology, engineering, and design education major

Carter Clever will graduate from Smithfield Selma High School in Johnston County. Carter is a member of the JoCo Teach program and has served as an intern for the Johnston County summer school program.

Editor’s note: The Anonymous Trust supports the work of EducationNC.


EdNC staff reporting relies on staff, interns, and columnists.