Past Winners…

Where are they now?

From Community College to University
How a Job in Retail Helped Along the Way

Ethan SallazGoing to a four-year college can make you feel locked into a major, especially since it can be expensive to give up course credits when you want to change. That’s exactly why Ethan Sallaz chose Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. He could figure it all out without having to worrying so much about expenses. At the same time, he could continue working at Rite Aid Pharmacy in Concord and save money. Nine years later, he’s a supervisor in Concord and he’ll graduate from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte this December.

“I was lucky to have a manager who let me continue working during the years I went to community college,” said Ethan. “Now, I’m considering a management role. I may even make a career in the retail industry.”

Ethan heard about the scholarship by email. A district manager had forwarded an email to his own manager, who then printed it out for Ethan to see it.

“I emphasized my retail experience and my understanding of how important the experience is to customers and how that helps a business succeed,” said Ethan. “I think this, combined with my education in business management and attention to detail, helped me stand out as a qualified applicant.”

Ethan always knew he wanted to go to college to better his life. After graduating high school, he went to community college for an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science while working. He liked the experience of the smaller class sizes and the way professors were more accessible. Back then, he didn’t know about retail scholarships. But had he known, he would have definitely applied since he worked the entire time to pay for college.

His advice to seniors is to figure out what you enjoy and work hard to make it happen.

“Be polite and professional,” said Ethan. “Try to have a professional support group that can help you find these scholarship opportunities. If it wasn’t for my great relationship with my own management, I would not have known about this award.”

First Generation Goes to College
An Education is Something No One Can Take Away

Assem Patel_croppedAs the last two decades saw free trade and price competition send North Carolina’s textile industry overseas, Assem Patel saw his parent’s jobs go away. Growing up in Rutherfordton, Assem watched his parents struggle to find work. Younger people got hired over them and everything else required a college degree. Neither of his parents went to college, but for Assem, it was possible.

Assem grew up playing football and baseball, but he decided not to pursue them. Instead, he focused on his education because he knew it would help him get the career he wanted.

“I thought it would be too difficult to play and make the kind of grades I wanted,” said Assem. “I also didn’t want to face the same hardships as my parents.

Assem knew he’d apply to NC State, Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill. He was serving customers and keeping shelves stocked at Bi-Lo when his manager encouraged him to apply for a retail scholarship. The rest of his story is history.

Assem graduated second in his class at Rutherfordton-Spindale High School and got accepted into two of the three colleges. Now at UNC Chapel Hill, he enjoys living in a dormitory with the freedom to study subjects that interest him. He plans to do a Biology and Chemistry double major, with a minor in Spanish. He also plans to go to medical school and wants to be an anesthesiologist.

“I am glad I chose to come to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” said Assem.  “I absolutely love it! I’ve met lots of new people and made many new friends. I thank my parents for always being there and for helping me realize an education was necessary. I don’t think I will ever be able to repay them for what they have done for me, but I promise never to let them down.”

While the road ahead will be long, Assem knows he’ll go home to support his parents. “For all that they’ve done for me, I would just like to repay them,” said Assem. “They’ve pushed me through school and were always there when I needed them. Soon, it will be my turn. I love my family and nothing will ever replace it.”

Back home, his dad Manoj Patel now manages a dry cleaning business. His mom Shilpa works there occasionally, and both are proud of what Assem is accomplishing.

“We are excited to see what the future will hold,” said Manoj. “He is very determined. We know he’ll be successful if he continues to works hard every day.”

Getting scholarship funding is helping to make it all possible.  “I would like to thank NCRMA for providing me with a scholarship that is helping me receive a college education. And remember, GO HEELS!”

Volunteer Service Takes Teen One Step Forward

Elexsys Junious_croppedVolunteer service can help teens identify interests and provide a social connectedness—one that can’t be matched in the age of social media–while fostering a sense of pride in the community. Elexys Junious learned this in high school. Field trips to a Whiteville nursing home introduced her to patient needs. She also made friends.

“I organized a blanket drive after getting to know many of the patients,” said Elexys. “They don’t get a lot of visitors and I know it makes them happy.”

Elexys asked people for support and she asked for blanket donations. In the end, the drive provided more than 200 blankets to seniors. She was working part time at the Whiteville Food Lion and preparing for college when someone suggested she apply for a retail scholarship. She’d worked at the store for over two years and the money could be used for tuition, housing or books.

She won an award, and she gives this advice to other students. “Be active in your community,” said Elexys. “It’s not just about grades. It’s important to be as diverse as possible.”

Today, Elexsys is a freshman at UNC Chapel Hill, majoring in psychology and she hopes to specialize in physical therapy.  One day she wants to help NFL players.

“I’ve learned the NFL is looking for women trainers who can work with injured players, to help them recover and regain their strength.”

Meanwhile, she’s looking for new opportunities to explore her interests. She recently toured the UNC football field where she met the head coach.

When You Know What You Want, Go and Get ItZachary_Singletary_cropped

Choosing a college major can be one of the most difficult decisions a student will make, but not for Zachary Singletary from Plymouth. He knew he wanted to study English. After all, Zachary had published his first poem in eighth grade and he enjoyed writing short stories. They were based on his experiences in sports, like the time he and his friend went to the state football championship, a story he describes as a journey of friendship.

Zachary worked at Piggly Wiggly for three years in high school. He started out as a counter clerk but when his manager saw his potential, he moved to a cashier position and then advanced to sell lottery tickets and serve Western Union customers. Now, a retail scholarship is helping him with his first year at Elizabeth City State University.

“Students working in retail really need to apply,” said Zachary. “The award has been a big help with my tuition, my books and it’s helping to make my education possible.”

Majoring in English and concentrating in creative writing, Zachary plans to teach high school and probably coach football. To date, his favorite book is Forgive Me Leonard Peacock about a day in the life of a disturbed teenager. Zachary has a compassionate desire to teach and support education. He may even be a school principal one day.

Rowing His Own Stream under Carolina Blue Skies
Meet James McLaughlin, One of NCRMA’s Newest Scholarship Winners

The row, row, row your boat rhyme is a wonder to young ears and it’s also full of wisdom. Rowing is putting one foot in front of the other, applying the effort needed for round after round. No one knows this better than James McLaughlin who follows his own stream at UNC. Making the rowing team has been the highlight of his first year in college. He doesn’t mind the no-car-on-campus-freshman rule and he takes the three-mile jog to practice at University Lake all in good stride.

James grew up in Monroe 30 miles east of Charlotte. He breezed through middle school and got accepted to the Union County Early College for high school. He was motivated, making mostly As, and volunteering at Carolina Medical Center-Union where he logged 400 hours of community service. At the same time, James was working at CVS Health, planning for college and considering exercise and sports medicine. One day he saw a retail scholarship poster hanging in the break room. He thought, why not? James didn’t tell anyone but he knew he met all the requirements. He’d been working for CVS Health since August 2013. Then, three months later, he opened a letter from the Retail Consumer Alliance.  That’s when he learned he’d have $2,500 to go towards his first year at UNC.

“It’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking about college,” says James in reflection.  “A lot of kids stress about the SAT, but too much emphasis is placed on the test. I tell friends to treat themselves. Look for opportunities like the NCRMA retail scholarship. So many of my friends are working in retail part-time, and they qualify for this generous award.”

James encourages students to try everything, including the dozens of clubs set up to get you fencing or mountaineering or crewing. It’s the greatest time of your life, permanently improving you and helping you develop a deeper understanding of something you love while preparing you for life.

His first semester at UNC was rigorous and scheduled. The courses James had taken in early college gave him an associate degree. He didn’t need to take the traditional exploratory classes required by many freshmen so he took Intro to Economics, Political Science and Spanish and a Classics course about ancient Greece. He’s now considering a degree in sociology that might lead to post graduate studies.

James is still working part-time at CVS Health on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. He works weekends and in-between his classes; going to crew practice is his getaway. Surrounded by trees, it’s a peaceful oasis from the daily routine of a college student. When he talks about making the rowing team, he’s quick to point out that his team is good. UNC won against both Duke and NC State last year and overall it’s been a great year.

Alexander-Katie-2x3Retail Teaches Valuable Life Skills with Unexpected Rewards

Katie Alexander knows every pint of blood has the potential to save up to three lives. Throughout high school, she supported blood drives for the American Red Cross and she asked people to give the gift of life. Katie also volunteered to donate blood herself as soon as she turned 16. For her Girl Scout Gold Award project, she created a how-to website to tell others how easy it is to sponsor a blood drive and why blood donations are needed to maintain the community blood supply. But when she considers everything she’s accomplished so far, her first job in retail stands out from the rest.

Two years ago, Katie became a cashier at Harris Teeter. She worked in the summer and during the school year. The extra money was helpful and it gave her a good start on saving for all of the college expenses that she knew were coming. It was also valuable in other ways. Working in retail taught Katie about helping customers, how to deal politely with complaints and how important it is to create loyal customers.

“Working in retail taught me how to work under pressure,” says Katie. “It’s important to stay patient and friendly even when a long line is forming at your checkout. I’ve also learned to be understanding and to find solutions that help customers.”

As a high school senior, Katie learned she was eligible for a retail scholarship and decided to apply. Her grades, service work and retail experience made her a competitive candidate, and she was pleasantly surprised to receive an award for $2,500 last May. It turned out to be a big help for her first year of college at UNC Chapel Hill.

Now, Katie is a cashier at Harris Teeter and will soon work with new employees to orient them to the store and operations. She works two days a week while taking courses in Biology, Spanish, Calculus and Drama, and she’s decided to major in nutrition. Recently she joined UNC’s Red Cross Club and says she plans to become CPR trained so that she can train other students in CPR. One of the biggest highlights of her freshman year has been her involvement with Carolina for the Kids, formerly the UNC Dance Marathon.

Feeding His Passion with an Award from RetailToohey-Harrison-2x3

Harrison Toohey grew up in Winston-Salem with three sisters. He often wished for a brother, but looking back, he says it was an awesome way to grow up. Everyone in the family was athletic and they often bought sports equipment at Soccer Unlimited on Trenwest Drive. It was therefore a natural question for Harrison to ask the store owner, at age 11, when he might be old enough to work at the retail store. By the time he turned 16, a junior at RJ Reynolds High School, Harrison had his first job working at Soccer Unlimited. He was also planning for college. Harrison qualified for a retail scholarship with NCRMA and decided to apply. It turned out to be a smart decision. He was awarded $2,500 to use for his first year at UNC Chapel Hill.

Harrison says faith impacts most of his decisions. He also says English Literature is his first love, even though he’s following a pre-med track. His favorite novel is the Count of Monte Cristo, the journey of Edmond Dantes whose hardships lead to the realization that “all human wisdom is contained in these two words, wait and hope.” For Harrison, the words hold meaning for his own life journey.

Applying to college is a time of waiting and hoping, and Harrison offers advice. “College admissions want to see students who are multi-talented and interested in many things,” he says. “They’re also interested in seeing how your service work impacts other people.”

Harrison says he wanted to make a difference in high school and sought service opportunities. He worked with Habitat for Humanity, planning and implementing different events to support home building for people in need, and his chapter received a national award for raising $65,000 to support the nonprofit. He also helped plan a community project in Argentina to service impoverished churches. At the last minute, he decided to create his own letter campaign to ask for money when he learned a local school needed uniforms. Altogether, he raised $5,000 in the two weeks before he traveled.

Now, Harrison is feeding his passion for the written word in Chapel Hill. He’s taking courses in English Literature as well as Spanish, and he knows he wants to be a doctor. He encourages other students working in retail to apply for an NCRMA scholarship.


Addison SmithAddison Smith Class of 2011

Addison spent his high school years working at Food Lion in Mount Pleasant. He always performed well in school and enjoyed being a sales associate. Interacting with the public helped him develop basic skills for life, such as the ability to solve problems and think on his feet, to experience handling money and purchases, as well as how to stay calm during stressful circumstances. In 2007, he was planning for college when he heard about retail scholarships available to students and was encouraged to apply. He was a high school senior at the time and was thrilled to receive a $2,500 scholarship that he could apply to his tuition at Wingate University. As a freshman at Wingate, he applied again in 2008, and surprisingly, he received it a second time. Addison then went on to receive more retail scholarships in 2009 and 2010.

During these years, Addison continued to work at Food Lion while going to school. Altogether, he was awarded retail scholarships four years in a row, and they contributed significantly to his education. Addison majored in mathematics and computer science at Wingate. Today, he’s completing an MBA degree and provides IT support for the College of Health Sciences.

“The scholarships eased my financial responsibilities and helped me manage the bottom line,” said Addison. “I had undergraduate loans each year and books to buy for classes. As I help students and administration here at the college, I often remember my work experience at Food Lion. It really helped me develop valuable interpersonal skills that are crucial in my job and life today.”

Past Winner: Parin DesaiParin Desai Class of 2008

Ms. Desai practices law at DiRusso and DiRusso in Mount Airy. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis and is an avid reader. But she got her start in a completely different industry. Parin started in retail, working as a cashier. Both of her parents worked in retail and it provided early life experiences that helped shape her. Her mother is a direct service delivery receiver. She introduced Parin to her very first job.

“Working in retail helped me learn how to interact with people and how to talk with them. It also taught me patience, a skill that helps me in my work today.”

Parin works in family law and supports divorce, child custody and domestic violence cases. When she went to UNC-CH, her ultimate goal was to be a lawyer. Receiving two retail scholarships helped fund her education.

“I’d encourage all students to apply because any support is helpful as you prepare for college,” said Parin. “And dream big, anything is possible if you want to achieve it.”

Matt Chastain, Past Winner of Everett and Trudy Scholarship of Excellence AwardMatt Chastain
Matt Chastain is 23 years old, and he’s a big basketball fan. During the basketball season, he can always be found cheering on the Tar Heels. Retail has offered a satisfying career and the opportunity to do something he enjoys, managing a store business successfully.

It all started in 2006 when Matt bagged groceries and made displays at Food Lion in Taylorsville. Both of his parents worked in retail and their experience helped him discover a great part-time job after school. Soon thereafter, Matt moved up to cashier. When it came time to graduate from high school and consider college, he was encouraged to apply for a retail scholarship. He decided to study business administration and knew he wanted to advance in retail management. Through persistent effort and learning the business at each incremental step, Matt got an education that helped him move up. After being promoted to direct store delivery receiver–a delivery process used for fast-turning products–Matt was promoted to the grocery manager. He’s been with Food Lion for 8 years.

Past Scholarship Winner: Kathryn HornadayKathryn Hornaday Class of 2013

Ms. Hornaday graduated on December 18, 2013, with a degree in human biology and has just applied to medical school. She’s also been hired by Allscripts to help implement software in hospitals and clinics.

Kathryn says her retail scholarships were a tremendous help in funding her education. Near the end of high school, she was working at Harris Teeter in Cary when she learned about scholarships that she could apply for because she worked in retail. Once she was accepted to NCSU, she continued to apply for retail scholarships while working part-time at Harris Teeter. To her surprise, she went on to receive an award for the next three years.

The university scholar and resident advisor has been active in all areas of the college experience and says she enjoys being involved. She credits leadership activities and solid grades for the financial awards she’s received and offers advice for students.

“It’s been an incredible opportunity for me to receive the scholarships four different times, and I would encourage everyone to apply,” said Kathryn. “As you plan for college, stay engaged in your community and find something to do that you’re passionate about.”