Sarah Grace Aldridge

Sarah Grace AldridgeWhen you come from a family that bleeds Purple and Gold, it’s hard to shake the call to join Pirate Nation. For Sarah Grace Aldridge, continuing her family’s legacy at East Carolina University comes with an added honor — being named a Brinkley-Lane Scholar, the university’s highest undergraduate award for academic excellence and recognition of potential to serve the university and the broader communities of eastern North Carolina.

Aldridge will graduate in June from J.H. Rose High School, just minutes from ECU’s campus, with her Pirate parents, Chad and Courtney, and grandparents in the audience.

In high school, Aldridge pursued a health sciences heavy curriculum: biomedical technology, health sciences classes that resulted in a Certified Nursing Assistant certification and the HOSA-Future Health Professionals club, serving as co-secretary her sophomore and junior year and vice president this year.

She was captivated by how the human body works during job shadowing at ECU Health Medical Center. Watching an open-heart surgery sealed the deal — she wanted to be a nurse, but finding the right school was critical. She applied to several in North Carolina and one in Virginia, but when she learned she was accepted into ECU’s Honors College, and then the Brinkley-Lane Scholars program, the search ended.

“When I found out that I received Brinkley-Lane Scholars, I knew I couldn’t pass on this opportunity,” Aldridge said.

Before joining the next cohort in the fall, Aldridge already has her summer calendar penciled in: a senior trip to the theme parks and beaches in Florida with friends, a beach week at the coast with family, hopefully a few Atlanta Braves games and a job as a kids’ summer camp counselor.

The job excites her most — working with kids sparked her desire to be a pediatric nurse.

Aldridge considers her selection as a Brinkley-Lane Scholar to be her greatest academic accomplishment. The late nights of studying, coupled with extracurriculars and volunteer hours, culminated in an award that makes her feel welcome as part of the greater Pirate family.

One of the requirements of being a Brinkley-Lane Scholar is a study abroad opportunity, which she is looking forward to. She has no set plans yet, but Greece or Italy are at the top of her list.

“Somewhere in Europe. They’re just beautiful countries and I would love to experience them firsthand,” Aldridge said.

She has a group of friends and acquaintances from Pitt County high schools who will join her as incoming freshmen in the fall. Some of those friends were Brinkley-Lane Scholar finalists, and she shared the teambuilding and interview intensive Selection Sunday with new friends.

“The Brinkley-Lane Scholar staff made me feel so comfortable, and seen and valued for who I am. I felt like I was a beneficial asset to class rather than just a number,” Aldridge said.

Aldridge sees her selection as a validation of the work she has done to make her hometown a better place for everyone, and the promise that after graduation as a Pirate Nurse she will continue that work.

“I’m passionate about serving, which is ECU’s motto. As a Greenville native, I want to give back to the community that I grew up in,” Aldridge said.

Brinkley-Lane Scholars is the most prestigious undergraduate award program offered at ECU. The four-year merit scholarship recognizes outstanding academic performance, commitment to community engagement and strong leadership skills. Recipients receive a fully funded education, covering the cost of tuition, fees, room and board for both in-state and out-of-state students and unique high impact experiences, as well as the ability to explore the world with a $5,000 study abroad stipend. Scholars benefit from access to an array of leadership opportunities, research with award-winning faculty and a robust alumni network.

“Being a Brinkley-Lane Scholar means I am honored and blessed with the opportunity to represent ECU while pushing myself to the best of my ability both academically and in service to my hometown.”

High school:  J.H. Rose High School

Intended major:  Nursing

Hometown: Greenville

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