On Saturday, May 14, the 22nd class of Park Scholars will graduate. Throughout their four years at NC State, the Class of 2021 has embodied the program’s pillars of scholarship, leadership, service, and character.
The talented Park Scholars of the Class of 2021 were selected from a field of nearly 2,150 applicants. Led by Park Faculty Scholars Billy Flowers and Clifford Griffin, the class discussed Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me and formed lasting connections when they met in Black Mountain for Freshman Retreat in August 2017. During Learning Lab I, the scholars met with physicians, counselors, social workers, religious leaders, and Department of Justice officials to examine leaders’ responses to the opioid crisis.
The next year, the class traveled to Washington, D.C., to learn how national leaders were implementing multidisciplinary approaches to domestic health care concerns and crises for Learning Lab II. They took part in Civic Engagement Initiatives that focused on topics including expanding the student-run business 321 Coffee, conducting effective robotics workshops for under-resourced youth, teaching food sustainability to middle school students, developing plans to expand Feed the Pack’s fresh produce capacity, and investigating safety at long-term care facilities.
In fall 2019, they partnered with the Class of 2020 to bring Dr. Nicole Laurie, an internationally-renowned health policy expert, to campus for a prescient Gerald H. Elkan Lecture in Science and Society. In August 2020, they honored activist and artist Bree Newsome Bass with the William C. Friday Award and, in September, they took part in a remote Senior Retreat designed to help build community and inspire reflection at the beginning of their senior year.
Service and scholarship have taken this class around the world. With support from Park Enrichment Grants, members of the Class of 2021 traveled to 17 countries across six continents on volunteer and educational trips. They studied renewable energy in Iceland, journalism in South Africa, entrepreneurship in Australia, and history and education in Germany. They taught English in Romania, volunteered at medical clinics in Ecuador, and repaired and replaced roofs for families in need in Rutherfordton, NC.
On-campus, scholars conducted award-winning research, bringing $100,000 to NC State. They studied the oceans, the stars, genetics, gene-editing, reptile ecosystem management, and more. They founded the Global Health Cooperative at NC State to connect students and alumni pursuing careers in public health. Through internship and co-op experiences, and with support from mentors, they discovered their true passions and tailored their professional goals. This class includes many members of the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies, as well as NC State’s — and Park Scholarships’ — third Churchill Scholar. Six members of the class completed their undergraduate studies early and these scholars began professional and graduate studies in veterinary medicine, computer science, statistics, social work.
Service underpinned the NC State experience for the Class of 2021 Park Scholars. They’ve taken part in three Service Raleigh events leading a total of approximately 3,200 volunteers on community projects throughout the Triangle. They’ve helped coordinate four Krispy Kreme Challenge events, which collectively raised $578,000 for UNC Children’s hospital and witnessed the opening of the NC State Park Scholars Children’s Specialty Care Program.
They demonstrate selfless generosity. For the class legacy project, the Class of 2021 has committed to raising $21,000 for the NC State Employee Dependent’s Tuition Scholarship. They reached 100 percent participation in the 2018 Park March Madness competition and won the inaugural Juicy Award for the highest class participation in the 2021 fundraising event. They helped Park Scholarships raise more than $1,300,000 during three NC State Day of Giving campaigns.
These Park Scholars are leaders on and off campus. Several supported the launch of 321 Coffee, a coffee shop leading in neurodiversity inclusion now staffed by more than 20 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and made sure the business weathered the shutdown in the early days of the pandemic. Another received NC State’s highest nonacademic honor, the Mathews Medal, for creating a lasting legacy at the university through his involvement with the Krispy Kreme Challenge and the Park Philanthropy Council.
All of this and more was accomplished in less than four years by this extraordinary class of scholars. These students will soon join a thriving network of nearly 1,000 Park alumni. We look forward to seeing the many innovative, thoughtful, and exciting things the Park Scholars in the Class of 2021 will do in the years to come.