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UNCP honors top incoming freshmen at banquet

July 28, 2004
merit scholars
Henry, Onita and Wesley Gibbs of Cary, N.C., speak with Admissions Director Lela Clark.

Some of the top scholars of the class of 2008 met at the annual Academic Scholarship Banquet July 9 at UNC Pembroke.

Although they have yet to attend their first class, this group was already being encouraged to give their best and get the most from the undergraduate experience.

"Be involved, but don't stop there," said Admissions Director Lela Clark. "Being a leader is different than being involved, and I am asking you not to be satisfied with just being involved."

"Don't just join a club or organization .. why not run for office, maybe even president?" Clark said.

Attending the banquet were recipients of UNC Pembroke's merit scholarships and family members. The Gibbs family and new freshman Wesley Gibbs traveled from Cary, N.C., to attend.

"I enjoyed it, especially the speaker," Gibbs said. "I am not sure what I will major in, but I am joining the (University) Honors College."

Gibbs was accepted at NC State and UNC Wilmington, but said he chose UNC Pembroke because it is a smaller school and has smaller classes.

Clark said the Scholarship Banquet offered a networking opportunity for the students and their families. It gave them the chance to meet the individuals who will be their peers for the next four years, and it is also a way to pay tribute to some of UNCP's incoming students.

"These are students who were very successful in high school," Clark said afterwards. "We want them to take the next step and be leaders here and for the rest of their lives."

Lauren Merkel
Keynote speaker Lauren Merkel, a sophomore and member of the University Honors College

Keynote speaker for the event was sophomore Lauren Merkel. Merkel offered tips on making the most of the freshman year. From Red Springs, Merkel joined the University Honors College and ROTC in her first year at UNCP.

"Several of the other academic advantages here at Pembroke include small class sizes, which place you in direct contact with your professors, and tutors, who work to assure your understanding of any subject matter," Merkel said.

"When I began college I was pretty intimidated by the professors," she said. "Professors are here to help students. It will also behoove you to become acquainted with your professors. "

Merkel, a Red Springs native, said ROTC helped her confidence, and she pitched the benefits of the University Honors College as another helpful peer group. The Honors College offers many opportunities, that for Merkel included a trip to Costa Rica this summer to participate in the Model United Nations program.

The banquet paid tribute to what is probably the most talented group of merit scholarship recipients in school history.

"Every year, it is more and more competitive for merit scholarships, and every year the selection process becomes more difficult," Clark said.

And every year UNCP asks more of its students.