Friday, February 5, 2016

Finalists' Weekend: Senior and Freshman Perspectives

As Finalists' Weekend comes up, freshman Levine Scholars look forward to meeting Finalists' who are in the same shoes that they were in the previous year, sharing their NOLS and first-year experiences, and looking forward to all the program has to offer in their next three years. Meanwhile, the senior Levine Scholars reflect back on their four years at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and how much their lives have changed since they were seniors in high school interviewing at their own Finalists' Weekend. Regardless of how long ago (or not so long ago) a Scholar was a Finalist, Finalists' Weekend is a time of excitement and enthusiasm for all! In writing this post, I decided to ask a few of the current freshman and seniors about their experiences in the program, and what they are looking forward to in the future.

What are you looking forward to most about this year's Finalists' Weekend?
I am most looking forward to seeing the whole process from the other side, as I was a Finalist last year. It will be very interesting to be able to share my experience both as a Finalist and as a Levine Scholar with the incoming freshmen. One of the most memorable things about my Finalist Weekend was getting to know one of the seniors, Sarah Whitmire, really well and being able to make lasting connections with fellow Scholars that are still valuable even outside of the program, and I hope to find that within the incoming class. It is very exciting to know that twenty of these students will become part of this incredible program that helps us to leave our legacy everywhere from the University to countries all around the world.
-- Sydney Welch, Class of 2019

As a senior, it’s hard to believe that this is my last Finalists' Weekend. I still remember being the prospective student, nervous to be interacting with a lot of college kids who seemed to have their lives all figured out. Now, I’m one of those college kids, and I smile at my high-school self. Finalists' Weekend marks a time to reflect on my experience at UNC Charlotte as a Levine Scholar. Since that first Finalist weekend as seniors in high school, my class has endured the coldest summer in Alaska, traveled the globe, almost completed degrees in every school on campus, and most importantly, learned how to be ethical leaders in society. To reflect on the growth we have undergone is incredible—and that’s what I enjoy most. I love meeting the current seniors in high school who still have so much ahead of them, and I like to think about what they will learn in their four years as Levine Scholars. How will NOLS influence their class dynamic? Which countries will they travel to? Which careers will they choose? How are they going to leave their mark on our campus and in the community? Finalists' Weekend brings reflection—both on the past and on the future. 
--Christie Koehler, Class of 2016

What has been your biggest experience/memory with the Levine Scholars Program? 
My biggest memory would be watching my civic engagement grant project come together, knowing that I organized it from start to finish, with the support from LSP. My civic engagement project was creating a specific exercise program for homeless women that was shown in scientific literature to lower blood pressure. It was a research project as well, so I measured each participant's blood pressure on a weekly basis. I was there for about 3 months, and it was a surreal feeling to take a participant's blood pressure and see their face when they realized that it had gone down. One participant's BP was lowered so much that her physician lowered her dose of medication, which decreased the typical side effects that she was dealing with. I know before I came to UNC Charlotte, I wouldn't have had the courage, organizational skills, or strength to organize a project of that size. 
--Sarah Whitmire, Class of 2016

What do you look forward to most about your future with the Levine Scholars Program?
I am exceptionally excited to continue to develop lasting relationships with the scholars in my cohort as well as those in other classes. I really feel that I joined a huge loving family when I came to UNC Charlotte and I can not wait to see all the amazing things we will become involved in as the years progress. It is this point in the program that we are approaching an alumni group as large as those currently in the program and there are so many interesting ways this could be utilized and applied. We are still growing and have some kinks to work out, but being there through the growing pains and seeing the result of hard work and effort is the most rewarding part.  
--Lazar Trifunovic, Class of 2019

What do you think has changed the most about you since you were a Finalist?
Now that I am on the other side of Finalists' Weekend for the first time, I can look back and see how much I have changed in the past year. The thing that has changed most about me is due to a new-found recognition of the millions of different paths I could take through college. Though daunting, this is also comes with a freedom of feeling. I see now that I am free to do practically whatever I want to, whatever I am passionate about, in college and in life. 
–Eddie Angelbello, Class of 2019

How has the atmosphere of Finalists' Weekend changed since you were a Finalist?
What has changed the most about Levine Finalist Weekend since I was a Finalist is the presence of the current Scholars. Coming in as a Finalist for the third cohort, the roughly 50 Finalists easily outnumbered the two cohorts of Scholars; it was difficult for my cohort of Finalists to speak with current Scholars due to that imbalance. In my experience, speaking with current Scholars is a high priority every year for Finalists as they are trying to gauge what it would be like to be a member of the Program. Ever since the third and fourth cohorts of Scholars were selected, the subsequent Finalist Weekends have finally had the Scholars outnumber the Finalists. Comparing this to my Finalist Weekend, it is now much easier for a Finalist to find a Scholar with whom to converse. I think this has greatly benefited the Program by helping Finalists understand who we are as Scholars and what they can expect if they are selected as a Scholar. It also increases the transparency of the Program from the student’s point-of-view and allows the Finalists to get a better feel for what being a Scholar would be like, rather than just being told what to expect by the Program’s Administration and other Faculty members. It is that personal touch of including the Scholars in the Finalist Weekend, as well as having enough Scholars to interact with all of the Finalists, that I think brings the appeal of the Levine Scholars Program to levels with which other scholarship programs cannot compete." 
--Robby Lankford, Class of 2016

Finalists' Weekend is an event that the Levine Scholars look forward to every year as an opportunity to share their experiences at UNC Charlotte and around the world with prospective new scholars, as well as an opportunity to meet the Finalists' and hear what they hope to accomplish as part of the program. This year's Finalists' Program is just over a week away, and promises to be an exciting and memorable weekend for all involved.