Meeting special needs
Lea Taylor knows the difference an occupational therapist can make in a patient’s life.
While her younger brother received treatment for Asperger syndrome, Taylor was able to shadow the therapist and it opened her eyes to a future career opportunity. She watched as he overcame obstacles such as an inability to wear shirts with embroidery. His handwriting improved, she said.
“And it was fun for him,” the 17-year-old recalled. “It wasn’t boring therapy.”
Taylor, of Faison, will be one of 20 incoming freshmen entering East Carolina University in August as EC Scholars – the most prestigious academic scholarship program the university offers. She plans to major in biology.
“I hope to gain a broader understanding of living organisms to better prepare me for a career in occupational therapy,” she said. “I hope to work with people with autism and other special needs.”
A regular volunteer with Faison Presbyterian Church outreach groups – she founded the Vulnerable Children’s Clothing Closet Ministry – and her local elementary school, Taylor is most looking forward to embracing ECU’s motto, “to serve.”
“I live in a very, very small town, so there aren’t a lot of opportunities to do different things,” she explained. “I think I’d like to volunteer at Pitt (the hospital)…but I’d really be open to trying anything new and different.
“Being an EC Scholar gives me confidence that East Carolina, my new home, has faith in my abilities to make a difference.”
Taylor admits to being nervous about leaving her small town and family for a large university, but said spending six weeks at Governor’s School of North Carolina’s Winston-Salem campus last summer helped prepare her for the transition. Her focus at the school was mathematics.
This summer she will volunteer for two weeks at Massanetta Springs Middle School Conferences in Harrisonburg, Va., as a youth enabler, leading young participants in worship and recreational activities.
Taylor is captain of the North Duplin Junior-Senior High School varsity tennis team, plays basketball and runs track and cross country. She also studies dance and piano. She served as class president from ninth through 11th grades and was president of her high school science club and health careers club, and is reporter for her school’s National Beta Club.
Taylor is the daughter of Donny and Margaret Taylor.
— Kathryn Kennedy
About EC Scholars
EC Scholars exhibit outstanding academic performance and effective leadership skills.
They have opportunities to contribute to faculty-led research studies, engagement in the community and multiple service activities.
The amount awarded to scholarship recipients is $40,000 ($5,000 per semester for eight continuous semesters). In addition, EC Scholars are provided with a $5,000 stipend to help support their required study abroad experience.
The entering Class of 2016 EC Scholar recipients have completed a rigorous three-tier selection process that includes: meeting the Honors College admissions criteria, having an additional faculty review and completing an on-campus interview. The incoming EC Scholar recipients have an average combined math/verbal SAT score of 1346 and an average unweighted GPA of 3.89.