Pinto overcomes to excel as a student leader, advocate


Name: Lydia Pinto

College: Health and Human Performance

Major: Recreational therapy

Age: 22

Classification/Year: Senior

Hometown: Gold Hill, North Carolina

Hobbies/interests: Scuba diving, participating and volunteering in Greenville, leading Young Life in Pitt County, and designing, making and selling shirts for my business, Designs By Lyd.

Clubs and Organizations: President of the Pirate scuba club (2022-present); Pitt County High School Young Life Leader (2019-present); Member Recreational Therapy Student Society (2019-present); two-time Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge Finalist (2022, 2023); Miss East Carolina University 2020; Captain of the Ship 2022


Favorite hangout: Giddy Up Coffee Shop or activity playing glow-in-the-dark sardines (manhunt) on campus with all of my friends!

Favorite place on campus: STEPP Cove or Scuba Pool

Favorite place to eat: Mi Cabana

Favorite class: Basic Scuba diving

Professor who influenced you the most: Dr. Loy


Dream job: I have big career goals. I want to continue to learn more about recreational therapy and open my own private recreational therapy practice.

Role model: Chris Pinto — my dad

Your words to live by: “Keep Going” was told to me by my dad almost every day, meaning for me not to give up, keep chasing my dreams and keep growing.

Leadership came naturally to Lydia Pinto when she was at Cannon School, where she had the comfort of her mother, Joy, on the administrative staff at the college preparatory school in Concord.

Pinto’s acceptance into East Carolina University and Supporting Transition and Education Through Planning and Partnerships (STEPP) began her next journey, which has featured opportunity, some challenges and a full list of accomplishments and accolades.

She was crowned Miss East Carolina University — virtually — in 2020, and later enjoyed an in-person recognition during Homecoming 2022 when voted Captain of the Ship by peers; is a College of Health and Human Performance student ambassador; president of the Pirate scuba club; led campus initiatives for accessibility; and was a two-time Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge finalist for the “Designs by Lyd” retail business she started in her dorm room.

Lydia Pinto headshot


Pinto, who is graduating with a bachelor’s in recreational therapy and hopes to continue her education in recreation sciences in graduate school, described ECU as her fresh start. The Christian organization Young Life helped her gain local traction, connecting her to Pitt County high school students to serve as a youth leader and mentor.

“Coming in from three hours from home, I wanted to get to know Greenville and find out if this is where I wanted to leave my mark forever,” Pinto said. “You always hear that college is where you really meet yourself and find yourself. I didn’t necessarily want to be student body president or anything, but I wanted to leave a mark in another way.”

Pinto has five learning disabilities, including in math, an auditory processing disorder and test anxiety. She can have difficulty processing verbal instructions without visual cues.

Patience and planning helped Pinto thrive as a student and leader. She prefers an hourly planner over a daily planner.

She has embraced challenges, which were heightened during online learning.

“One thing I have overcome is not being afraid to tell someone I have a learning disability,” Pinto said. “Oftentimes there’s a stigma. … Just because I have a learning disability doesn’t mean I’m not going to be smart or be successful. That was a big part with my platform being Miss ECU was hearing all voices and advocating for those with different abilities.

“I kind of made that my life motto, especially going into the field of recreational therapy. I want everyone’s voice to be heard and their abilities to be highlighted.”

Mentors for Pinto include recreational therapy associate professor David Loy and STEPP instructional specialist Danielle Dietz.

“(Dietz) will jump up and celebrate with you, and she’ll cry with you,” Pinto said. “She’s the best and a great supporter, no matter what. … I think that’s a big thing about ECU is we celebrate each other.”