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‘Dear future me’

Write a letter to your future self, the Carolina Family Scholarship application asked.

So Thomas Elliott wrote, “Dear future me, I hope that you will be on a path that you can agree with, that you can support financially but above all morally. I hope you will not put money before yourself or those you love.”

As one of 10 new Carolina Family Scholarship recipients, the 20-year-old sophomore seems well along the path he foresaw.

The Carolina Family Scholarship is a $2,000 need-based scholarship for which children of full-time UNC-Chapel Hill employees can apply. Recipients can use the funds to study at any UNC system institution or community college. The scholarship, made available by the Employee Forum, is renewable for a maximum of four years of undergraduate study.

Carolina Chancellor Carol L. Folt recently made the decision to allocate $20,000 from the chancellor’s unrestricted fund to support the scholarship.

“This scholarship is another way we can give opportunities to so many deserving students,’’ Folt said. “It’s particularly special to be able to be able to offer some extra support to the children of people who work so hard every day for our University.”

That donation and others mean the families of Carolina employees such as Joanneke Elliott, Thomas’ mother, will continue to benefit. Joanneke Elliott joined University Libraries in acquisitions in 2014. The single parent of three learned about the Carolina Family Scholarship during orientation on the first day of her job.

‘A burden off my shoulders’

“The scholarship is taking a burden off my shoulders and making it possible for Thomas to keep working on the things he really cares about and be involved in such as issues concerning humanity’s problems, poverty, race relations, inequality,” Joanneke Elliott said.

Joannake Elliott and Thomas Elliott.

She watched with pride as Thomas won a Gap Year Fellowship through Carolina’s Campus Y after he graduated from Chapel Hill High School. A year in South Africa as a research and office assistant with professor Wayne Twine at the University of Witwatersrand introduced him to research methodology. He saw how research and analysis could help solve some of the world’s problems.

“Since my year abroad, I understand that solutions for humanity’s problems can be best solved at the intersection of qualitative and quantitative information,” Thomas Elliott said. “That sounds a bit high and mighty, but everywhere I look I see situations where better understanding of a problem’s background may advise a more effective solution.”

A dual citizen of the Netherlands and the United States who speaks five languages, Thomas Elliott also lived in Belgium. He is majoring in Contemporary European Studies with a minor of Statistics, preparing himself to earn a doctorate in international studies with an emphasis on social sciences and research analysis.

Thomas Elliott said his Carolina experience has been rigorous and engaging, and the Carolina Family Scholarship has made a difference.

“The additional money makes a difference in the kind of environment where I can do my best, in where I can live and what kind of food I can buy,” he said. In these ways, the scholarship allows him to focus on a path that already resembles the advice he offered his future self in his Carolina Family Scholarship application.

Read more about the Carolina Family Scholarships.

By Scott Jared, Office of Communications and Public Affairs
Published September 2, 2016