Brandon Blackwell’s dreams literally went up in smoke last winter when a kitchen fire wiped out his family’s college savings. His fortunes have taken a turn for the better this summer.
Blackwell, who is from Ash, N.C., in Brunswick County, will attend UNC Pembroke this fall as a Maynor Scholar. The scholarship is renewable for four years and pays tuition, fees, room, board and books. It was established by the late Esther G. Maynor, a Pembroke native.
The university’s third Maynor Scholar said he is preparing for college by working part time and visiting the school’s web site. Blackwell said was very excited when he got the news of the scholarship award.
“I got the letter from the mailbox on my way to work,” he said. “I was so excited, I didn’t know whether to go to work or call all my friends. I called my dad and went to work.”
The Esther G. Maynor Honors College manages the scholarship program. Dr. Steve Bourquin, a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, is interim dean of the college.
“It is evident that Brandon is a very determined young man who has distinguished himself as an outstanding student and leader,” Dr. Bourquin said. “The Honors College is pleased that he has accepted this scholarship and will attend UNCP in the fall.
“The Esther G. Maynor Scholarship is designed to help outstanding scholars who have a high level of financial need,” he said. “The Honors Council believes that Brandon is exactly the type of student the scholarship is intended to benefit. I believe that both UNC Pembroke and the Maynor Honors College will be proud to have him represent us for four years.”
Blackwell will be the first person in his family to attend college. He said he owes his determination to attend college to his mother.
“She was the driving force,” he said. “She didn’t want me to throw my life away. My mom pushed me all throughout school to do the best I could.”
And then comes the hard part: “Her number one concern, as she lay on her death bed, was whether or not I would be able to go to college and be successful in life.”
Blackwell’s mother was disabled by illness and his father is disabled. His mother passed away in 2009, and the visits to doctors’ offices and hospitals left Blackwell with a profound respect for doctors. His goal is to become one.
“I’ve seen their dedication; I’ve seen how they can help people,” he said. “I want to do what they did for my family.”
Blackwell was a good student in high school with a 4.36 grade point average. He was a junior marshal and a member of the National Honor Society and Health Occupations Students of America . He was active outside of school, participating in special events ranging from American Red Cross blood drives to the NAACP Health Fair.
In letters of recommendation, teachers and staff at West Brunswick High School give him high marks for character. “Brandon is a student leader at our school and a great role model for young adults,” said Mary Anne McLamb Gore, a biology teacher. “He has always exemplified the highest standards of character.”
Health science teacher Jeanette Mintz said she is confident Blackwell will reach his goals in life. “He knows he wants to be a health care provider, and I feel certain Brandon can and will obtain his goals.”
In his high school’s guidance office, Blackwell found literature about UNCP and thought it might be the right place for him.
“I don’t like the idea of big classes,” Blackwell said. “And it’s close to home, but far enough away to be independent.”
As he has been looking through UNCP’s website this summer, he has made a list of furnishings needed in his dorm room, and he’s looked at job opportunities on campus.
“I don’t plan to work the first semester until I get a feel for the lifestyle of college,” he said. “I am looking forward to this.”