Naimi Pothiwala

After Naimi Pothiwala learned about the EC Scholars program, the most prestigious undergraduate award program offered at East Carolina University, she immediately started reading scholar profiles on the ECU website. She saw versatile, dynamic students and a scholarship program that valued more than just GPAs.

The 18-year-old knew she was a good fit within minutes of meeting EC Scholars on campus. “It was an uplifting and exciting atmosphere, and the scholars were a family,” she said. “I got to see students doing things larger than themselves and I could see myself growing in this environment.”

Pothiwala is one of 20 freshmen entering ECU this fall as an EC Scholar. The four-year merit scholarship recognizes outstanding academic performance, commitment to community engagement and strong leadership skills. Recipients receive an Honors College scholarship for four years, along with a stipend for study abroad, for a total value of $62,000.

“To me, being a scholar means joining a family of like-minded individuals with the collective goal of doing something remarkable and genuinely making a difference.”

She is the daughter of Ishita and Amit Pothiwala of Apex. She plans to pursue a degree in public health studies and immerse herself in extracurricular activities.

“With the special emphasis ECU puts on service, I was beyond excited about the prospect of being a part of a group of people that are driven to serve,” she said. “At ECU, service isn’t the end – it is the main objective. That’s why I believe ECU’s programs in teaching and health care are so strong.”

Her zeal for service comes as no surprise. In high school, she was president of Panther Creek High School’s Future Health Professionals and the Indian Student Association.

She volunteers with senior patients at WakeMed in Raleigh and at the Woodland Terrace Senior Living Facility. A participant in the hospital’s elder life program, intended to reduce delirium in these patients, she helps individuals remain in good spirits, eat and work to strengthen their memories.

Fluent in English, Spanish and Gujarati, Pothiwala taught Gujarati to 60 students ages 4 to 16 as a teaching assistant at the Baps Gujarati Learning Center.  With her help, 80 percent of students cleared proficiency.

Pothiwala looks forward to studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking countries such as Peru, Argentina, Chile and Spain.

And after graduation she plans to attend medical school and later focus on orthopedics or rheumatology.

“I like the idea of improving someone’s quality of life,” she said. “In my volunteering with dementia patients at WakeMed and Woodland Terrace, I particularly enjoyed helping them with their range of motion and mobility, because it is something that empowers an individual.

“I believe there are few things more rewarding than helping someone walk again or hold something when they couldn’t before,” she said. “Those little moments are what make health care so appealing to me.”

Before heading to ECU in August, she plans to travel and spend time with family.

“To me, being a scholar means joining a family of like-minded individuals with the collective goal of doing something remarkable and genuinely making a difference.”

High school: Panther Creek High School

Intended major: Public health studies

Hometown: Apex