Matthew Godwin and Candace Locklear, seniors at Purnell Swett High School in Pembroke, will receive four-year scholarships from UNC Pembroke as participants in the new Early Assurance Program (EAP), which guarantees them a spot in East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine once they graduate from UNCP.
Earlier in the school year, freshman Brandon Blackwell became the first UNCP student accepted into the program.
The scholarship pays for tuition, fees and books and assures the participant’s entry into the East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine. The students were selected through a competitive process.
Entrance into the Early Assurance Program requires high school GPAs of 3.7 and scores on the SAT of at least 1100. Once enrolled at UNCP, EAP fellows must maintain a 3.5 GPA, complete required pre-med courses and score at least an eight in each section of the MCAT, the standardized test for medical school applicants.
The program is part of ECU’s outreach into rural communities to train doctors, said Sylvia Johnson, director of UNCP’s Health Careers Access Program. “This is the result of conversations that go back in time,” Johnson said. “We have a strong record of sending successful students to the Brody School of Medicine, so this takes it one step further.”
Through the Health Careers Access Program and other health career promotions, Johnson has shepherded more than 50 UNCP undergraduates into medical schools. She likes the opportunities the EAP gives students.
“If they have a strong interest, this program will give them what they need to be successful,” she said. “ It’s a serious commitment, but all the things we offer to prepare students for medical school will be available to them plus activities sponsored by ECU.”
Jackie Clark, vice chancellor for Enrollment Management, helped put the program in place. “Our students have an excellent track record at Brody which influenced the establishment of this program,” Clark said. “Brody Medical School has a unique focus on rural health in underserved areas.”
“The goal is to prepare medical professionals who are best prepared and most likely to return to their respective communities to practice, and that happens here,” she said. “It is a win-win for all concerned but a home run for the future of quality health care for our region.”
Blackwell, who is an Esther G. Maynor Scholar, is having an outstanding freshmen year. He is immersed in studies and the Honors College. He is very excited about his participation in the Early Assurance Program.
“It’s a great deal. It’s been a great year, and I have no regrets about coming to UNCP,” he said. “I have definitely decided to go to medical school in family practice.”
With several advanced placement credits already on his academic record, Blackwell has taken two anatomy classes and one class in chemistry. He is on track to finish in three-and-a-half years. This spring, he will be inducted into Lambda Sigma, the sophomore honor society for students in the top five percent of their class.
With the first year in college behind him, Blackwell feels confident about getting into to medical school. “It’s not guaranteed admission,” he said. “I will meet the requirements.”
Godwin and Locklear are also high-performing students. Each has a GPA that exceeds the program’s requirements, and they both pursue interests outside of the classroom. Godwin plays baseball, but will give it up in order to focus on school; Locklear is a cheerleader and member of Purnell Swett’s track and cross country team. They are both in the National Honor Society and participate in student government and several student organizations.
While their academic performance could have earned them entrance into other schools, both Godwin and Locklear found appeal in the familiarity of their regional university.
“UNCP is like home,” Locklear said. “I used to come to the library when my sister and brother were students here.”
Godwin also has a family connection to the university: His mother works at UNCP. “I participated in science camps at the university,” he said. “I’ve talked with professors and with Dr. Joey Bell who shared their experiences….So many UNCP people go off and succeed,” he added. “That’s one reason I chose to come here.”
“Like the people that went before us, I want to be a good ambassador,” Locklear said.
Both high school seniors are going into the program with an eye on every hurdle. The MCAT looms large in their minds, as do courses like physics and organic chemistry.
“I fear the MCAT the most, so I will be working on test-taking skills,” Godwin said. “UNCP offers a lot of help, so there will always be someone around the corner for me.”