Some of Eileen Jakeways classmates last year at Hough High School told her to accept the offers from prestigious schools like Wellesley College or to join them at UNC Chapel Hill.
But Jakeway, 18, will be among about 27,000 students starting classes Monday at UNC Charlotte. The decision was easy to make, she says.
And UNCC officials say recruiting Jakeway, one of the 15 members in the fourth class of Levine Scholars, is a sign of the universitys increasing success in attracting top-notch students.
Some of my friends are surprised at what I did, but I feel as if I know something they dont, Jakeway says. I know how much there is to this school.
As a Levine Scholar, Jakeway and the other 14 incoming freshmen who won the prestigious award spent nearly a month this summer hiking and camping in Wyoming as part of a team-building exercise.
Eileen is a great example of a student who looked at a number of opportunities and chose us, says Diane Zablotsky, director of the Levine Scholars program.
Jakeway says she likes to follow her own path.
I listen to others advice, of course, but at the end of the day, the decision is mine, she says. I know what I want.
Perhaps its in the genes. Her father, Patrick, decided after graduating from college to visit Europe without a formal plan. He got a backpack and went overseas, eventually landing a job as a bartender in Germany. He later started a business. He met Eileens mother, Angela, while there. Eileen was born in Germany, but the family moved back to the United States before she entered school, they landed in the Charlotte area.
Eileen has that same independent spirit, Angela Jakeway says.
Not initially on her list
Jakeway applied for a number of scholarships in her senior year at Hough, where she had been heavily involved in student government, the National Honor Society, and a number of other school groups. She says UNC Charlotte originally wasnt on her radar.
But Angela Jakeway, a German instructor at the school, encouraged her daughter to look at the Levine Scholars program.
That program is amazing, Angela Jakeway says. I thought Eileen should apply.
The program was started in 2009, funded by Sandra and Leon Levine. Much like UNC Chapel Hills Morehead and other major collegiate awards, it pays the full cost of a four-year education, summer opportunities such as the wilderness trip for incoming freshmen, and international study and business opportunities later.
Zablotsky says UNCC representatives spend several months every fall visiting high schools and talking to guidance counselors and top students.
Counselors are familiar with the Levine Scholars program now, she says. But we work hard to make sure the word gets out to all students.
Angela Jakeway says she and her husband didnt try to steer their daughter in any direction.
We told her only that she should pick a school that offers her plenty of options, in case she decides to change her major, she says. We knew Eileen would make the right choice for her.
So she made room in her college selection process for the hometown school.
I was sold on it, she says. Ill tell you what sold me on it the people in the (Levine) program were scholarly, but they also were down-to-earth. That is what I wanted.
A close friend was headed to Harvard; other friends were going to UNC Chapel Hill, N.C. State University and Duke. And there were offers from schools like Wellesley.
Some of them wondered why I would stay in Charlotte, but the schools location isnt whats important to me. Its the people at the school.
Zablotsky says the Levine program has helped create a community of scholars on campus.
We have seen a steady development of that community, says Zablotsky, in her 22nd year at the school. Were continuously blown away by their energy and ability. Its been amazing to watch their development as leaders on this campus.
Jakeway says she cant live without lists. I make lists for everything, she says. That keeps me organized.
But when UNCC contacted her with news of the award, Jakeway says she didnt have to make a list of pros and cons.
It was like everything came together in a single moment, she says. I knew it was right.
Jakeway, who plans to major in international studies and communications, says the summer program in Wyoming was an eye-opener.
I learned that Im stronger than I realized, she says. When youre hiking for 12 hours in the mountains and pushing yourself, you have a chance to think about what is important in your life.
Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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