“I always knew I wanted to become a Tar Heel,” said Amber Friel ’22. “But, as a first-generation college student whose parents both passed away before I started high school, I also knew I would have to attend whichever university offered me the most financial support.”
Having received a substantial scholarship from another school, Amber had almost given up on her dream of studying in Chapel Hill. Fortunately, just before committing to the other school, she received news from Carolina that changed everything.
“I literally didn’t believe it,” said Amber. “I hurried to my high school guidance counselor’s office and showed her the email, thinking there was some mistake. Once it finally sunk in that I had been offered both the James M. Johnston Scholarship and the Carolina Covenant Scholarship, my decision to attend Carolina was a no-brainer.”
Since becoming a Tar Heel, Amber has excelled inside and outside of the classroom.
Academically, Amber was quickly drawn to the UNC Hussman School of Media and Journalism. The Hussman School’s interesting coursework, combined with the opportunity to pursue her love of learning from and communicating with others, led Amber to declare a major in advertising and public relations.
“Diving headfirst into an entirely new field of study was quite exciting,” said Amber. “Being from Tabor City, North Carolina, it was inspiring to leave my small town bubble and interact with people from such diverse backgrounds through my classes and internships within the Hussman School.”
Amber said her Honors Carolina classes helped her adjust from a small town of fewer than 5,000 people to a university of almost 20,000 undergraduate students. Honors Carolina classes have no more than 24 students per class, allowing Amber to form substantial relationships with her peers and professors.
Outside of the classroom, Amber serves as a leader for her peers as president of the UNC All-Girl Competitive Cheerleading team. Having cheered in high school, Amber was looking to continue her passion in college. She heard about the club team at FallFest, a celebration run by the Carolina Union at the beginning of each academic year for new and returning students to learn more about opportunities on campus, and immediately got involved.
“I have made so many lifelong friends and amazing memories as a member of this team,” said Amber. “Representing Carolina at NCA Nationals in Daytona Beach my first year will always be one of my most treasured experiences as a Tar Heel. Nothing makes me happier than performing in Carolina blue.”
Throughout her time at Carolina, Amber has also helped shape her community through service and engagement. Upon taking a service-learning course through APPLES, a student-led organization that connects academic learning with public service, Amber was able to apply her knowledge of public relations from the Hussman School to her internship at the Fill Your Bucket List Foundation, a non-profit based in Cary, North Carolina, that helps grant the wishes of adult cancer patients.
“The mission of the foundation is very close to my heart, as I lost my mother to cancer when I was in middle school,” shared Amber. “This internship provided me with new skills and real world experience in my field. More importantly, it gave me the opportunity to serve the Carolina community and create relationships with coworkers who I remain in touch with today. I am forever grateful that I got to be a part of a group that helps create lasting memories for the loved ones of cancer patients.”
Inspired by her internship experience and the coursework from this service-learning class, Amber declared a minor in social and economic justice.
While Amber’s experiences with the Hussman School, Honors Carolina, Club Cheerleading and APPLES Service-Learning have certainly shaped her time at Carolina, she said the support of the scholarship community has made Chapel Hill feel like home.
“In addition to the financial support, being a scholarship recipient has meant so much to me as a Carolina student,” said Amber. “I am grateful to have made so many great friends within this community, and I find comfort in knowing that if I ever need advice or support I can turn to the amazing individuals in the Office of Distinguished Scholarships. If I have learned anything as a Johnston Scholar and Carolina Covenant Scholar, it’s that you are never in your boat alone.”