The Class of 2026 Reflects on the First Few Months at NC State

Four members of the Class of 2026 reflect on the first four months of their college experience! From football games to Freshman retreat, they all had one thing in common- they can’t wait for what is next!

Emma Fornes
Hometown: Apex, NC
Major: Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing

The Park Scholarship has given me the best thing I could ask for: a support system. When I initially heard about the relationships Park would facilitate, I didn’t truly believe they’d be this impactful. I can now say with certainty that I’ve found my lifelong, best friends through this incredible program. I’m so grateful that Park brought this group of special individuals together and I’m truly looking forward to learning and growing with them in these next 7 semesters. 

I was fortunate enough to travel to New York City through the University Honors Program (UHP)… and thanks to Park, I applied for and received a Park Enrichment Grant (PEG) to sponsor my trip! It was fantastic: I saw 5 broadway shows, visited iconic NYC hotspots, and ate some pretty darn delicious food. The highlight of my trip was getting to meet Lea Michele (Glee Star) after seeing her showstopping performance as Fanny Brice in Broadway’s Funny Girl (see her signing my playbill below)! Above all else, I made some fantastic friends, shoutout to Sami, Kiran, John, and Abby (also pictured below). Visiting NYC was my favorite part of this semester, and I look forward to traveling with UHP in the future!

Molly Sue Smith ‘26
Hometown: Robbins, NC
Major: Social Work

Freshman year has been wonderful in ways that I could not even imagine. Managing the move was difficult initially, but after finding a pattern to settle into, it has been one of the best periods in my life. The Park Scholarship program has supported me in my quest to build connections on campus. I have gotten to meet upperclassmen with aligned goals, faculty members on campus and heard of various new clubs since arriving at NC State. Most importantly, I have been able to create meaningful bonds with my Class of 2026 peers. 

I am a member of College Mentors for Kids and serve as a building representative on the Quad/Triad Area Council. Through the Park Scholarship program, I have been able to join the PURA executive team as an Applicant Data Manager. I have also been volunteering at Wrenn House in Raleigh, and can’t wait to expand my horizons with service work.

The biggest thing that I have learned in the last few months is that not one thing is ever as it seems on the surface level. Many Park Scholars are used to being the smartest in their classes, always leading the group, being the initiator in conversations, etc. However, after coming to college, it has become more evident than ever that the best qualities a person can have are to listen and be open to change. 

Syd Fryer ‘26
Hometown: Charlotte, NC 
Major: Political Science – Concentration in International Politics / Spanish Language 

From the minute the Class of 2026 returned from our freshman retreat at Black Mountain, both NCSU and Park activities and opportunities have kept me busy, fulfilled and excited. The first few weeks of your freshman year are unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. There is so much energy around meeting new people, settling into your community, and taking advantage of all the resources available on a world-class campus like NC State. With that excitement, though, comes a feeling of overwhelmedness and, in all transparency, chaos, but the Park team and community has been instrumental in helping us navigate those feelings. 

I’ve been able to rely on other members of my class for peer support and advice when the transition to college got tough. I’ve met with members of the Park team to help me navigate questions around changing majors, confusion about potential career paths, and balancing work and school. The mentorship structure built into the Park program has connected me to older students passionate about similar things and pushed me to step out of my comfort zone by meeting professors and faculty.

So far on campus I’ve engaged with NCSU College Dems, who partnered with Cheri Beasely’s Senate campaign to sponsor an event where she came to Talley Student Union and spoke with the NCSU community. I had the opportunity to canvas/table for her leading up to the event, speak publicly for her campaign, and even meet her alongside two other Park’s in the class of 2026. 

Along with two fellow Parks (Ana-Victoria Gomez ‘26 and Sophie Scherer ‘26), I have also started engaging with the VOLAR club, a club that takes students in the Spanish department and gives them volunteering posts in the community. I’ve also thankfully had the time and support to join Delta Zeta sorority, which has already started to connect me to other strong, insightful women on campus. I’ve already engaged in service for DZ’s philanthropy, worked to empower other women, and joined a community of academically-driven students. 

Through Park, I’ve worked with the Park Ambassadors program to promote and recruit students for the next class. The Park program has given so much to me that I’m thrilled to give back by voicing my student experience on Zoom calls, visiting my high school to give a recruitment presentation, and volunteering at NC State’s Open House to answer family and student questions about Park. I have also volunteered as a PURA editor, and as such have been able to edit application essays and give tips on applying to scholarships and schools. 

There’s much excitement on the horizon – so Go Pack and Go Park! 

Anil Gordon ‘26
Hometown: Fayetteville, NC
Major: Business Administration – Concentration Finance, Political Science

Initially, freshmen year was overwhelming with classes, clubs and Wolfpack Welcome Week events. However, after two weeks, I was able to adjust to my schedule and find a balance between studying at Peele Hall and enjoying the freedom that comes with college. I am especially grateful to the Park Scholarship program for the Freshmen Retreat my class went on prior to the start of the year. This gave my class a chance to form relationships and grow closer to one another. When I got back to campus, I was happy that I had a group of 40 friends who supported me.

On campus, I have gotten involved with Student Government, serving as a First Year Senator, the Raleigh Civic Symphony, Jujitsu Club, and Cavedwellers. I have really enjoyed being involved in Student Government so far because at every Senate meeting I learn about new initiatives and programs on campus that I was previously unaware of. I also have really enjoyed participating in the Raleigh Civic Symphony because it serves as a creative outlet to me during the week for me to express myself. Through the Park Scholarship program, I have become involved in Learning Lab Committee II and the Park Ambassador program. Although I haven’t been able to contribute much to either program yet, I look forward to high school visits to inform students about this opportunity and continuing to work on and plan Learning Lab II for the Class of 2026.

Recently, some members of my class and I participated in a local chariot race in downtown Raleigh. It was sponsored by a company that gave us the supplies to construct a chariot and then we competed against other teams to win prizes. We constructed our chariot out of a trash can and upgraded its axle to form our chariot. To our surprise that day we won second place and a free snowboarding trip. I am really excited to go on this trip and it will be a great way to end the semester.

I look forward to the rest of my freshman year and am excited to become more involved both on campus and within the Park Scholarship program.

Read the announcement about the Class of 2026.