Park Scholarships Diversity Student Task Force Helps Program Expand Reach to Prospective Students

Mary E. Yarbrough Courtyard

The Park Scholarships Diversity Student Task Force was formed to allow current students to take a leading role in the recruitment of new Park Scholars. The task force, launched in fall 2018, assists with outreach to ensure prospective students from underrepresented communities are informed about the Park Scholarships application process. 

“Diversity and inclusion are the lifeblood of enriching, healthy environments,” said Diversity Student Task Force member Annie Haunton ’22.

Reneé Tutchton, Park Scholarships Assistant Director for Recruiting and Selection, is the staff lead for the task force. When she joined the Park Scholarships staff, she recognized the need for increasing student input in the program’s recruiting and selection activities. Creating the task force, which convenes every other week, was one of her key initiatives in her first year.

“On the Task Force, I have the opportunity to come up with initiatives and programs that make sure that students like me know they have a home here, and that NC State and the Park program are spaces that belong to them as much as anyone else,” Diversity Student Task Force member Elizabeth Dogbe ’21 shared.

At various stages of the selection process, members of the Diversity Student Task Force host online events to facilitate dialogues with prospective students, create videos to congratulate Park Scholarships Semifinalists and Finalists, and serve as Park Ambassadors

Having recently gone through the selection process, students have important perspectives that advance the program’s mission to recruit exceptional students to NC State. “Students can get involved firsthand through the Diversity Student Task Force and implement the actions that need to be taken,” said Diversity Student Task Force member Noor Shehata ’22.

“Diversity and inclusion are crucial when selecting the next class of Park Scholars and I wanted to be directly involved in the process,” explained Diversity Student Task Force member Nehemiah MacDonald ’23. “Having diverse perspectives in the Park Scholarships program allows us, as students, to both learn from our peers and grow as leaders.” 

The Diversity Student Task Force has been instrumental in developing and implementing diversity-focused components of Final Selection Activities, including the Identity/Interest Group Breakfast held in 2020 and the corresponding Interest Groups session held virtually in 2021. 

“I am most proud of the Interest Groups session at Final Selection Activities because it gives students a safe space to have casual conversations with individuals who share a part of their identity,” MacDonald said. “It shows the Finalists that there is a community here for them in the Park Scholarships program and NC State.” 

“Prospective students getting to seek out current scholars with identities that mean the most to them is amazing,” Dogbe shared. “In the past, qualified marginalized students may have turned down the scholarship because they felt they weren’t represented in the program. With the different identity tables, we provide a direct solution to that problem – they literally get to see where they are represented and get to talk to people like themselves about their concerns coming in.”

The students on the task force have also assisted in sharing information about the endorsement process, translating the program’s high school brochure into Spanish, compiling a campus resources list, and more. 

Shehata stressed the importance of maintaining the momentum of inclusion as the Diversity Student Task Force approaches its fourth year. “I am elated that citizenship status is no longer considered for Park Scholarships applicants graduating from U.S. high schools and that test scores have been removed from Selection Committee review,” she said. “We have been focusing on reaching low-resource high schools that have been overlooked in the past, as well as raising awareness about the self-endorsement process. All of these accomplishments are incredibly important because they target specific obstacles that people of color and those of low-economic status must deal with when applying to college.”

“I have been thoroughly excited to see the work of Nicholas Oyarzun ’24 and Sam Dotson ’24 as they began the Park Under-Resourced Assistance (PURA) program,” Haunton added. “As a junior, it gives me hope to see the youngest students in our program already enthused about making a positive impact.”