By Linda Coutant and Megan Hayes
Fahiima Mohamed has spoken before the United Nations, Grace Bowling spent a year volunteering with a health care initiative in Bolivia, while Vicky Anderson mentored peers through her leadership in the National Honor Society and varsity swim team. Jake Powell is an Eagle Scout, Javon Nathaniel served as a student advisor to his school district’s superintendent, and Anisha Sharma started a sustainability council at her school.
Meet the 2016 recipients of Appalachian State University’s Wilson Scholarship, which provides a full-ride education and is the university’s most prestigious merit-based scholarship. Appalachian’s Wilson Scholars are chosen based on their academic achievements, as well as their service and leadership in their communities and schools. Their experience as Wilson Scholars at Appalachian embodies a rich blend of academic excellence, leadership and service.
More than 1,400 incoming freshmen applications were reviewed for this year’s Wilson Scholarship.
“The caliber of students applying for this scholarship program is outstanding,” said Dr. David Marlett, faculty director of the Wilson Scholars Program. “They are independent, creative and critical thinkers who are passionate about service and dedicated to understanding the world around them.”
Anderson is from Rutherfordton, where she is a member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and mentored other students through her leadership in the National Honor Society and varsity swim team and as student body president of Lake Lure Classical Academy.
She represented her school in the community in numerous ways – writing for her hometown newspaper, volunteering with children and families through food security and literacy programs, and working for her local humane society. Her work experience includes management positions at a local restaurant and farm stand. Her intended major is criminal justice.
“It is my hope that the education and college experience offered at Appalachian will aid me by exposing me to many new experiences, by establishing a strong knowledge base, increasing interpersonal skills, and broadening my understanding about the growing interconnection of our world,” Anderson said.
Bowling graduated from Watauga High School in three years and spent a “gap year” volunteering with Consejo de Salud Rural Andino, a non-profit health care initiative serving low-income, rural, Bolivian families.
To help fund her ability to travel to and live in Bolivia, she established her own small business called Bolivia-Bound Bakery selling baked goods, soups, breads and granola she made herself. An avid blogger and songwriter, Bowling was a student-athlete who was also a member and leader in several service clubs, including the Key Club, National Honor Society and Spanish Club. Her intended major is languages, literatures and cultures.
About her ambitions for personal and academic growth at Appalachian, Bowling said, “I want to make sure that I will never be the kind of person who travels the world but doesn’t take the time to learn at least a little of a new language.”
Mohamed graduated from Raleigh Charter High School. Her background includes work for the President of Somalia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Somalia and the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. In 2015, she attended the United Nations General Assembly and publicly addressed the assembly as a member of the Somali delegation.
Her volunteer work includes numerous mentorship activities for children in the Raleigh area, as well as community projects such as book drives, donation drives for resettled refugees and community work days. A Somali native, she is multilingual and dedicated to creating positive change in the lives of people displaced by war. Her intended major is biology.
“As a young Somali woman, I am affected by problems faced by women and people of color. I know that with an education, I have a chance to try and make an impact to make life easier for as many people as possible,” Mohamed said.
Nathaniel is from Charlotte. He completed a five-year program at Union County Early College High School, where he graduated with both a high school diploma and associate degree. His background includes leadership positions at his high school and in his community. He was a student advisor to the Union County Public Schools superintendent, providing input on changes in the school system, a school and community advocate in the prevention of teen dating violence and student government leader.
Passionate about issues of equity and race relations, Nathaniel was both a mentor and mentee in youth programs for minority males. His intended major is international business.
“I want to find other students who are willing to be vocal in their community and help dictate change,” he said. “With the aid of these impactful students, I will open forums on campus for other students to express their thoughts on race-related issues.”
Powell of Cary is an Eagle Scout. While a student at Athens Drive High School, he was a varsity athlete on the swim and soccer teams, as well as a junior varsity assistant coach. His academic coursework focused on utilizing numerous engineering concepts to solve problems in the field of sustainability.
Powell’s activities include membership on his school’s debate team, tutoring students in physics and working on environmental beautification projects for local schools and parks. His intended major is environmental science.
“I would like to solve the problems caused by pollution so that future generations can enjoy a healthier and cleaner environment. Raising awareness through education, and implementing affordable green technology worldwide are key steps to solving these problems,” he said.
Sharma is from Summerfield and graduated from Greensboro Day School. Her community involvement includes serving on the Greensboro Beautiful and Greensboro Parks and Recreation’s Clean City Committee, working with the Indian Association of the Triad and tutoring children at a local refugee center.
Passionate about environmental sustainability initiatives, she founded and served as president of the Greensboro Country Day School Student Sustainability Council. She also was president of her school’s Environmental Club and chair of the Environmental Awareness Committee for the National Honor Society. She also was involved in the performing arts and was active in her school’s theatre and choral ensemble programs. Her intended major is biology.
“Through collaboration with others, intellectual exploration, and personal efforts to promote pluralism, equality, and justice, I hope to become a better contributor to the world,” Sharma said.
The Wilson Scholarship was established as Appalachian’s premier scholarship in 2013 by Brad and Carole Wilson of Raleigh, who are both 1975 graduates of the university. Brad Wilson is CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Carole Wilson is a member of the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees.