Disaster resilience scholarship students show the best of NC

by Leslie Ann Jackson

One of the most inspiring programs we started in the last few years is our NCCF Disaster Recovery & Resilience Scholarship.

Founded as another avenue for meeting unmet needs and supporting long-term recovery following hurricanes Matthew and Florence, the scholarship is in its second year of awards.

This year, five students from the communities impacted by Hurricane Florence, were awarded a $5,000 scholarship to peruse their education and continue their dreams. These awards are in addition to the two awards from last year in response to Hurricane Matthew that we renewed.

So many of the stories of pure resilience these students lived touched our hearts and inspired us.

I was particularly inspired by the story of one young woman from Wilmington, a city that felt the full brunt of Hurricane Florence in such a devastating way nearly a year ago and the city where I also went to high school. (Go Vikings!)

When the disaster happened, this young woman was just beginning her senior year of high school. She’s the only member of her family for whom English is not a second language and provides a lot of support to her family with information and communication, all while navigating her senior year of high school.

When Hurricane Florence hit her community, she needed to relocate her family. That meant, while she was keeping up with her studies and academic commitments at school, she was also building a life in a new community and assisting her family with communication through the moving process.

That got me thinking about what I was doing the third weekend of my senior year of high school was in Wilmington.

For so many of us, senior year is something we’d been looking forward to for a long time. We dreamt of making those final memories, figuring out what’s next, the anticipation of college acceptance letters and the finality of one last homecoming.

What’s amazing about this young woman is that she was faced with the gravity of the disaster that was Hurricane Florence only a few weeks into her senior year. In that moment, it would be more than understandable that someone in that situation would be angry, sad, frustrated and feeling the loss of what they had been looking forward to for years.

But in her situation, and for many students impacted by hurricanes that disrupt their educational paths, those feelings began to seem out of reach. She had to deal with finding a new home for her family. She was depended upon for that. She didn’t have time for self-pity or anger at the loss of the thrill of the senior year.

These are the realities our neighbors facing disasters deal with. That is why we intentionally named this scholarship for disaster resilience.

We ask students to tell us not only what it was like for them to survive the hurricane but how they rose to those challenges.

We’ve seen firsthand how these young people are accomplishing incredible things for their families and communities. Reading their stories leaves you overwhelmed with the humility and generosity of the many students who dedicated their time to rescuing and rebuilding their communities when they could have been mourning the loss of their idyllic senior year.

This year, we received 80 applications for the scholarship. These are just the stories we know about. There are so many more.

Stories like these are the best of North Carolina and remind us what makes this state such a great place.