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The freedom to dream: Corinne’s story

Corinne Light ’20 almost wasn’t a Tar Heel. The Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge will ensure more students like her can follow their dream.

Corinne Light '20
Corinne Light '20

Corinne Light ’20 almost wasn’t a Tar Heel. The Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge will ensure more students like her can follow their dream.

Corinne Light ’20 almost wasn’t a Tar Heel, but it wasn’t for lack of talent or initiative. Unlike many of her classmates in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Corinne knew she wanted to go to college. Carolina wasn’t a traditional choice for high school seniors in her area; many felt they either wouldn’t or couldn’t get in, or it was too much of a financial stretch for them or their families. Corinne saw things differently.

Though she applied to a dozen colleges and universities, earning admission to all of them, Corinne will tell you Carolina was her “reach” university. The daughter of a former Navy SEAL and the middle child of five, she is a first-generation college student and the first in her family to attend a four-year university. She was over the moon when she learned she’d been accepted to Carolina but feared she didn’t have the money to realize her dream. Carolina put her fears to rest.

Scholarships for students like Corinne

Corinne arrived in Chapel Hill as a Carolina Covenant Scholar; a Steve and Debbie Vetter Military Families Scholarship, among the first awarded to students from military families, further opened the door to opportunity. The Vetter Military Families Scholarships resulted from a commitment from Steve and Debbie Vetter, of Greensboro, North Carolina, to provide financial aid for dependents of military families. The gift launched the Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge, which aims to raise a total of $40 million in scholarships for the same purpose.

“We were elated when Corinne was accepted to Carolina, and we were determined to do all we could to help her go,” her father Andrew said. “The Covenant relieved a lot of pressure and enabled us to also encourage Corinne’s younger siblings to set and reach for their goals, too. For her to be named a new Vetter Scholar for her efforts, and mine, is deeply rewarding.”

Corinne Light '20 and her family

Corinne Light ’20, third from right, with her parents and 4 siblings

As part of the Covenant, Corinne received work-study funding, and she got a job in the UNC School of Dentistry, where she trained as a dental assistant and works alongside dental students, graduate fellows and faculty practitioners in patient care. Not only did her work-study position align perfectly with her career aspirations, it afforded her the opportunity to go to Honduras with the school’s Global Dental Brigade over her spring break.

“It was both exhilarating and humbling to go out with the other dentists, hygienists and caregivers to help these people, many of them children, achieve better oral health and better health in general,” she said. “I knew I had found exactly what I wanted to do — travel and serve.”

The opportunity of a lifetime

Corinne plans to follow in her father’s footsteps after dental school and become a dental officer in the Navy. Her service will help offset her dental education, but for Corinne, it’s more than that. “I want to serve my country, and I feel like it’s my responsibility to make a difference in the world,” she said. “I am so proud of my parents for their hard work in and out of the service, and I want to give back some of what I have been given. It’s just the right thing for me to do.”

Red, White and Carolina Blue Infographic

North Carolina is home to the nation’s fourth largest contingent of active duty service men and women, many of whom have family members who want — and deserve — to go to college. Like Corinne, they have the talent, but lack the resources to make a college education a reality.

Carolina aims to change that through the Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge, an effort to raise at least $40 million in need-based scholarship funding for family members of military service men and women to come to Carolina. Thanks to a generous commitment from alumni Steve and Debbie Vetter, of Greensboro, North Carolina, we’re well on our way.

With your support, the Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge will ensure more students like her can follow their dream.

This is story number 127 in the Carolina Stories 225th Anniversary Edition magazine.

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