HAMLET — Many people dream of being a student at Duke University or the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. But what about being a student at both at the same time?
It’s no fantasy for Richmond Community College graduate Carolina Mendez of Hamlet. She joins an elite group of students as a Robertson Scholar, a merit-based scholarship that provides students a full ride to study at Duke and UNC simultaneously.
Connecting Duke and UNC, the Robertson Scholars Leadership program “seeks students who have demonstrated outstanding potential to become great leaders in college and beyond.”
Mendez already had several college acceptance letters as she waited for the results from the Robertson Scholar interview committee.
“This program had selected me from a pool of over 100,000 candidates from around the globe, accepting an average of 30 at each institution,” Mendez said. “I felt wanted and honored by the selection.”
Mendez has already had the opportunity to meet the other chosen Robertsons, whom she describes as “leaders and trailblazers in their own fields.”
The scholarship also covers two semesters to study abroad, grants to attend conventions, and three funded summers to explore and develop career and personal interests.
This summer she has been accepted to attend the week-long Future Latinos Summer Law Institute in Washington, D.C. She will have the opportunity to meet lawyers, judges and business leaders, while also getting to tour the city and sites. At the end of the week, she will take part in a mock trial competition.
“I am wholly thankful for the opportunity that being a Robertson Scholar will be providing me. It’s more than what I would have ever expected,” Mendez said.
Mendez was born and raised in Richmond County, but her family is originally from Mexico.
“My inspiration stems from my Hispanic community. They are the most hardworking people I know,” she said. “As I have witnessed many immigrant parents sacrifice their own happiness for their children’s future, the only right thing to do is go above and beyond their expectations and make their sacrifice worthwhile.”
Coming from a family of low income, Mendez knew she would have to make wise choices if she wanted to go college. In middle school, she was already thinking about her future, which is why she applied to be in Richmond Early College High School, otherwise known as REaCH, housed on the Hamlet Campus of RichmondCC. As a REaCH student, she would be able to get her high school diploma while also getting two years of college for free.
“An Associate in Arts degree from RichmondCC would provide me with the general education classes I would need to transfer to the college of my choice,” Mendez said. “I decided to add on a business certificate given its broad scope of skills I could learn from the classes, as well as it being a good addition to my resume.”
At RichmondCC, Mendez also served as a RichmondCC Student Ambassador and worked a campus job with the Marketing Department. Both positions helped her build her leadership skills. She was also a member of REaCH’s Beta Club, and she spearheaded the creation of an Environmental Club. Starting with only 15 members, the club has since grown to 70 registered members.
Excelling Through a Pandemic
Mendez was working fulltime while still taking a full load of classes when the pandemic hit and changed everything.
“Apart from having my family affected by the virus and having to live with relatives at times, I had the obstacle of balancing my work, school and applying to college all in one season. This is an obstacle I did not expect. Nevertheless, it only made me stronger,” she said.
Mendez graduated Magna Cum Laude from RichmondCC on May 20. She received nine different scholarships and awards at the REaCH Academic Awards ceremony. She was accepted into five colleges and universities, but the Robertson Scholar sealed the deal for her.
With “dual citizenship” at Duke and UNC, Mendez plans to earn a degree in economics and public policy. Her goal is to get a master’s degree and work in state government or a humanitarian organization.
“I would also love to be in a position where I can direct policy initiatives, specifically with immigration and education reform,” she said.
Shaped by RichmondCC
Mendez is grateful for the four years she spent at RichmondCC.
“My favorite part of RichmondCC is how nice and dedicated some of the faculty and staff are. Professors like Mrs. Kim Parsons and Mrs. Donna Tedder showed true passion for teaching and made me feel welcome in every class I had with them,” she said.
Mendez also liked the personal interaction students could have with the college president, Dr. Dale McInnis.
“He greets every student and is open to writing letters of recommendation as well. This is something you cannot find at many colleges,” she said.
Mendez believes RichmondCC shaped her into the person she is today.
“I would recommend RichmondCC to anyone searching for personal development or anyone willing to explore something new,” she said. “RichmondCC can help you with your career goals, whether big or small. I could not have asked for a better school and community to have attended.”
For More Information
To learn more about the academic opportunities at RichmondCC, schedule a tour of the Hamlet or Scotland County Campus by calling 910-410-1700, or visit the College online at www.richmondcc.edu. Fall semester begins Aug. 17, but short-term career training classes run year-round.