Abby Scheper remembers the day she visited NC State as a high school junior. She wasn’t feeling well and rain was falling – not the ideal circumstances for a college visit.
She loved it.
“The people were super friendly and the campus really spoke to me,” Scheper recalled. “I felt very welcome, like it was a place I could call home.”
For the past four years, that’s exactly what she has done – called it home. Scheper graduates this May with a philosophy major, and minors in art and design; health, medicine and human values; and genetics.
It was also during that high school tour that Scheper first heard about the Park Scholarship at NC State, a four-year scholarship awarded on the basis of outstanding accomplishments and potential in scholarship, leadership, service and character. She knew the opportunities provided could be life-changing.
Additionally, though she considers her family to be fortunate when it comes to financial circumstances, Scheper realized her parents faced paying for both her and her brother to attend college.
“We didn’t necessarily want to break the bank to send me to an undergraduate institution,” she said. “And I didn’t know at the time if I would attend grad school as well.”
After pouring her heart and soul into the application, Scheper was selected as a Park Scholars program finalist. She attended the finalist weekend and felt like the interviews had gone well, but on the drive home also considered how many other deserving applicants had surrounded her. A week later, back in Charlotte in her AP Literature class, she got a call to come down to the guidance office.
“I’m a good student, I don’t get called down to the office very often,” Scheper said with a laugh. “I think I probably knew what it was about.”
She had to return a call to NC State, at which time she was offered the Park Scholarship. She gave a thumbs up to her guidance counselor, who was looking on intently, and the counselor was so excited for Scheper she went into the hallway to yell the news.
“It was just knowing that everything I worked for had paid off,” Scheper said. “I talked it over with my family, but got back to them to say yes very quickly.”
She arrived at NC State with plans to be a scientist – something she’d dreamed of her whole life – but soon found herself headed down a different path.
“I loved my genetics classes, but when I got into a lab, I didn’t really love lab work,” Scheper said. “I was missing the interaction with people, and I realized I really needed to think about going about my education in a different way.”
She took a philosophy class and loved the way the subject made her think about things differently, but still had a lot to do with the sciences. Next year, she’s headed to law school, where she plans to take her background at the intersection of science and philosophy and apply it from a legal perspective. She recently committed to the University of Virginia’s Law School, a top 10 program in the country, where she’ll receive a partial scholarship as well.
Helping guide Scheper to this point was her mentor and friend Bob Grossfeld, professor emeritus of biology. Each Park Scholar is assigned a mentor, and Scheper says she couldn’t have asked for a better one.
“He’s just absolutely wonderful,” she said. “Dr. Grossfeld has really been invaluable to me – whether it was not knowing where to go academically or facing an issue with an internship or job, or even socially, he’s just been the best resource I could ever ask for on campus.”
Being a Park Scholar has afforded her the opportunity to travel – she was in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado for the Park senior retreat early in the school year, for example. And the program also has given her the opportunity to lead. In August, she served as lead facilitator for the Park Scholarships freshman retreat.
The Park Scholarships program also connected her with Musical Empowerment, a nonprofit with a chapter at NC State, through which college students mentor younger, underserved students in their local community by providing free one-to-one music lessons. Singing and music had also been passions of Scheper’s growing up, and it has been very rewarding to channel those passions into the nonprofit. Though she didn’t teach voice, she was able to work in a leadership capacity for the organization as a student relations team member.
In addition to those experiences, she has met some of her best friends through her sorority, Pi Phi, and says she never misses an NC State football game – “ever, it just doesn’t happen,” she said. Her younger brother, Ethan, followed in her footsteps by attending NC State and becoming a Park Scholar himself, and is another avid Wolfpack football fan.
When she reflects on her college career, Scheper said if she had to go back and do everything again, she likely wouldn’t do anything differently.
“I really have made the most of it,” she said. “NC State gave me everything that I could have asked to have in a university – I have no regrets.”
The backing of the Park Scholarships program was a big part of making that experience so successful, she said.
“These people believe in me and they know I can succeed – and not only succeed, but do great things and have an impact in the community around me,” Scheper said. “I know that there are other people out there rooting for me and supporting me through their dollars – that has pushed me to be the best version of myself and to do so without fear.”
Read more about our extraordinary 2020 graduates.
This post was originally published in Giving News.