SECU Foundation champions ECU’s students and mission
The organization’s partnership with ECU was celebrated Sept. 21 at the inaugural SECU People Helping People Scholars Luncheon at the Main Campus Student Center’s Black Box Theater. SECU and SECU Foundation leaders met with People Helping People Scholars and Public Fellows interns and heard about the impact of their investment in ECU students.
Currently, 136 SECU People Helping People Scholars are enrolled as Pirates. Laura Daniels, a freshman from Trent Woods in Craven County, is one of the new SECU Scholars at ECU. Earning an SECU scholarship helps her pursue her dream of entering the nursing program.
“It was intimidating and stressful for my family deciding where I was going to go (to college) and how that was going to work for my family financially,” Daniels said. “Getting support from the State Employees’ Credit Union was an answered prayer for my family.”
Wesley Toone, a sophomore from Roxboro majoring in engineering with concentrations in mechanical engineering and environmental engineering, said his SECU scholarship made college more attainable.
The SECU Foundation’s support of education spans every county in North Carolina. The SECU Foundation has invested $81 million through People Helping People Scholarships across all 100 North Carolina counties.
Chancellor Philip Rogers took in the scene of nearly 60 scholars, fellows and foundation representatives as he spoke about the university’s long-time partnership with SECU and their many contributions in support of ECU students.
“I always have the best seat in the house at every event because I get to look out and see so many wonderful smiling Pirate faces, so many great friends of this university, and wonderful supporters of the great work that we do together,” Rogers said. “In so many ways today really is a celebratory moment and it presents an opportunity for us to express our thanks to the SECU Foundation for its unwavering support of our university.”
Rogers said partners like SECU add value to ECU’s work because the organization has sustained a relationship with the university over time. They are partners who “walk alongside us in a journey to advance our mission and our vision priorities at this institution,” Rogers said.
“You’ve invested in ECU students in countless ways, through the People Helping People Scholarship program, the SECU Public Fellows Internship program, and a $1.5 million grant for rural teacher education scholarships,” Rogers said. “I am looking at the beneficiaries of those investments today. You’ve benefited more than 700 students at East Carolina University.”
In the past nine years, the SECU Foundation has funded more than 120 ECU internships to 75 eastern North Carolina organizations through the SECU Public Fellows Internship program. ECU was a founding member of the program which provides students with real-world experiences where they can test the things they learn in the classroom. Six of ECU’s public fellows interns attended the celebration.
Rogers highlighted the development that ECU students gain in leadership and analytical skills, communication strategy and project management work by participating in the internship program. The impact of SECU Foundation’s investment is not just on the students alone. This year, students interned in 12 counties and provided more than 330 hours of support service, Rogers said.
“When we use the phrase regional transformation, what you’ve seen (in the fellows) and in our students is our mission in action in each and every way,” Rogers said.
People Helping People scholars are selected as high school seniors based on their academics and community service. The chancellor used the opportunity to encourage the scholars to commit to giving back to the region that has given so much to everyone at ECU.
“Part of what we desire for you, at ECU, is to live into and to embody our motto, Servire, which means to serve,” Rogers said. “I want you to bring that motto close to your heart. Think about continuing to invest your time and your talents and your energy into transforming eastern North Carolina and to living into the great values and expectations that have been set through our friends at the SECU Foundation.”
Current scholars said the recognition of volunteerism was an important factor in applying for the SECU scholarship. “Thank you for not only recognizing our academic achievements but also our outreach and community service,” Daniels said. “It encourages us to continue to volunteer.”
Community service is important to Noah Presley, a junior from Wilmington.
“This scholarship has allowed me not to have to worry about the financial burden of college. I still work, but having to work for your personal expenses is a lot different than having to pay for an entire college education,” Presley said. “It’s taught me to give back. I like to give back specifically at ECU because it’s the community that has done so much for me.”
Presley has been inducted to the Servire Society two years in a row. The society recognizes Pirates who have 100 hours of service on campus. He aims to earn the recognition again this year.
McKinley Wooten, assistant secretary of the North Carolina Department of Revenue and a SECU Foundation board member, said the university’s new strategic plan, Future focused. Innovation driven, resonated with him when he thought about the partnership between the foundation and ECU.
“Future focused is why the SECU Foundation does this work,” Wooten said. “That’s why we got the foundation into the scholarship business in the first place. In this room is the future of North Carolina and of this country. We are thrilled to be able to offer the valuable scholarships that all of these great students have talked about.”
Wooten encouraged the students to take the opportunity to go back to their high schools and share their experiences with other students.
“The things that you talked about, it’s really important for high school students to hear, for them to be encouraged to volunteer and encouraged to apply for this scholarship, but all scholarships that they can,” Wooten said. “Adulting is tough work and to start adulting not having a lot of school debt will make that transition much easier.”
Leah Beth Warren is set to graduate in December with a degree in engineering and a concentration in biomedical engineering. The senior from Blounts Creek said she would tell high school students they should definitely apply for the scholarship.
“This scholarship has been so helpful in allowing me to go to college,” Warren said. “If you are volunteering and you want to serve, this is the scholarship for you.”
Warren has had four full-time internships with Thermo-Fisher Scientific and works there part-time. She has earned more than two years of job experience in the pharmaceutical industry.
“I would not have been able to do that without this scholarship and that financial burden being taken off of me,” Warren said.