My Experience as a Levine Scholar - Kira Chiles ‘23

Monday, April 5, 2021

Being from South Carolina, I wasn’t aware of the various scholarship programs available to students in North Carolina. When starting my college search, I initially focused my attention on schools in South Carolina because that’s what I was familiar with. However, I also wanted to explore schools in other states so I focused my attention on North Carolina, particularly Charlotte, simply because it was not too far away from home but not too close either. In researching UNC Charlotte, I stumbled upon the Levine Scholars Program and made the decision to apply. That decision has given me so many unique experiences and opportunities, all of which I am extremely grateful for! 

The component of the scholarship program that really resonated with me initially was the $8,000 civic engagement grant scholars receive to implement a project in the community in partnership with local nonprofits. I remember thinking the amount of freedom given to scholars for the project was amazing and I was in awe of the creative ways that previous and current scholars have impacted the Charlotte community. The sky is truly the limit. I was also intrigued by the fact that incoming scholars were able to join current projects. I recently joined an existing project started by a scholar from the class of 2019, The Pediatric Gastroenterology Cooking Class Initiative, which offers children’s cooking classes to enhance the diet of patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Although I have only been involved for a short amount of time, I can already see the impact this project has on the community it serves and I am looking forward to contributing my own ideas that further help the community.

From the moment I left the Finalist Program, I knew that the Levine Scholars Program was the program for me. I knew it ever since I learned that the Levine Scholars Program is a very close-knit community. It was obvious that the small cohorts really helped everyone to connect. People from different cohorts interacted and everyone seemed to be on a first-name basis and get along very well. The strong bond between scholars was also clear when they stood to introduce themselves and talk about their favorite LSP memories. Everyone was laughing and having a good time reminiscing on their experiences that they’ve had with each other, and I really liked that. It made me want to be able to fondly reminisce too! 

Like I said earlier, being a member of the Levine Scholars Program has introduced me to a variety of experiences and opportunities. The summer before your freshman year of college, all scholars participate in a backpacking trip with the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander, Wyoming. When I learned about the trip, I was very intrigued and slightly nervous about what was to come. Although I didn’t enjoy all aspects of the experience, I was pleasantly surprised about how much of it I did enjoy. I was able to learn a lot about myself and I truly believe it helped me to succeed during my first year of college. NOLS guided me in forming the mindset needed to excel academically and keep my motivation high. Throughout NOLS, I accomplished things I never thought possible including climbing snowy mountains, crossing rough and scary terrain, and learning how to navigate and survive in the backcountry. Another experience I really enjoyed was the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip to Charleston, SC last March. A group of scholars, along with Dr. Z and Porscha, spent a week volunteering with the Charleston Habitat for Humanity. As a freshman, it was such a valuable experience as I was able to build connections with the upperclassmen and staff while also learning new and useful skills. This experience has led me to continue volunteering with Habitat in my hometown. 

I am so excited to embark on my final two years in the Levine Scholars Program, and I look forward to the opportunities for professional and personal development that are sure to come my way!