A love for learning runs in the family for Harrells native, Rachel Bland ’20.
Goodnight Scholars Program: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Rachel Bland ’20: I grew up riding along in the buddy seat of a tractor learning about life on the family farm. I am from Harrells, North Carolina, which is home of one blinking traffic light and 199 of the kindest people I know. I joke about having to drive 30 miles round trip if I want a banana, but I love the rural life and everything that I have learned from my community. While I grew up on the farm and love agriculture, experiences like assisting computer classes with my mom helped me discover my passion for teaching. I fell in love with playing a part in people gaining a new skill. It is rewarding to watch people’s learning and ability in a subject grow. I have been drawn to education ever since. I’m currently a junior majoring in elementary education with a concentration in STEM. Much of my time outside of classes is spent engaging in opportunities related to education whether as a STEM coach for the Goodnight Scholars Program to my life as a tutor.
If you had to summarize your personality in one sentence, what would it say?
I love learning and laughing and think every day should be full of both.
How would you describe your life as an NC State student?
Full. Between classes, work, the Goodnight [Scholars] Program, involvement with my church, managing a small business, and everything in between, my schedule itself is indeed full. However, my life is also so incredibly full of joy. I have met some of the most incredible people during my time so far at State from the Goodnight Scholars professional staff who are always there when I need to talk, to my peers whose passion exudes in all they do. Life as an NC State student is also full of adventure. There is always somewhere to go or something to do in Raleigh! That was new for me coming from such a small town.
Any personal accomplishments at NC State that you are proud of?
While it isn’t even my own accomplishment, I am most filled with pride when a student comes back to me to tell me how they did on a test. I work with the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes here on-campus as a tutor for math and science courses. I have smiled bigger smiles over their successes in courses than I ever have at receiving my own scores. I see my former students around our office or on-campus and love asking them about life. Knowing I could play a small part in a student’s academic journey here on campus is an experience that has filled me with joy and pride for the past three semesters.
From extemporaneously speaking in front of guest lecturers in our class freshman year to professional interviews, [the Goodnight Scholars Program] has given me confidence to believe in my abilities and share my talents to pay it forward.
What is one experience you need to have at NC State before you graduate?
I admire people who enjoy running. I, however, am not one of those people. I do enjoy the red glow of the hot sign and the smell of a dozen glazed donuts. That being said, I want to participate in the Krispy Kreme Challenge before I graduate!
Tell us about your time in the Goodnight Scholars Program.
The Goodnight Scholars Program became my home away from home. I was nervous to come from a town with a population of less than 200 to a campus of almost 35,000. Being a Goodnight Scholar gave me a community at NC State before I even stepped foot on campus. I have had the opportunity to serve as a finalist group leader, mentor, STEM coach, and am looking forward to serving as a member of our Mountains to Coast team during spring break. Meeting future Goodnight Scholars and conversing with students across the state has been so inspiring. Likewise, mentoring a couple of our first-year students who are also education majors brings me a renewed sense of excitement in the field of education. They quickly became my peers, and I love bouncing ideas for lessons and experiences around with them. The Program has given me the opportunity to pursue my passions and challenged me to leave my comfort zone. From extemporaneously speaking in front of guest lecturers in our class freshman year to professional interviews, this program has given me confidence to believe in my abilities and share my talents to pay it forward.
What does being a Goodnight Scholar mean to you?
I remember sitting in the back row of a room in Hunt Library during my own interview day with the Goodnight Scholars Program. I remember person after person echoing the same two words: community and opportunities. After a few times I was silently thinking, “Okay. We get it. It’s a community. There are opportunities.” Truthfully, I didn’t really “get it” until reflecting on my time as a Goodnight Scholar this summer. I have met some of my closest friends because of the Goodnight Scholars Program. Events like our All Goodnight Meeting and potluck dinners remind me how incredibly blessed I am. I sit in awe at the Goodnight Graduation Gala each year as I listen to our seniors’ accomplishments and discover how they will be spending their foreseeable future. The community the Program has created is incredible. The opportunities it has provided are unparalleled!
Do you have an unforgettable memory from your time in the Program thus far?
One of the most overwhelming memories in the Goodnight Scholars Program so far has been serving as a finalist group leader on Finalist Interview Day. It is probably evident by now that others’ joy brings me joy. Being in a room full of finalists is exhilarating. As a future teacher, I imagine how proud every community must be for these individuals who have displayed their talent, dedication, and humility throughout their high school careers. I imagine the difference they will make in the world. Our group debated seemingly frivolous questions like whether pancakes or waffles are the superior breakfast food, though personally, French toast wins in my book, to pass time and alleviate stress. This memory is unforgettable to me because I saw the anxiety fade from faces. I saw personalities begin to shine as they interacted with their peers. I reflected on who I was as a nervous finalist my senior year of high school and who I have become.
Where do you picture yourself after graduation?
This question sneaks up on me now as I must recognize graduation isn’t as far in the future as I would like to imagine. There are a few things I know: I love education, and I love people pursuing their passions and watching the light bulb moments as they learn something challenging. I picture myself serving in an education capacity in an under-served community. While I haven’t quite decided a grade or subject, I know my heart belongs around others who are constantly learning!
Photography credit: Carmen Bollman/Goodnight Scholars Program