Student Support

‘Serendipitous’ Support

Support from the Blue Sky Scholars program arrived just when this public policy and German double major needed it.

Blue Sky Scholar Gigi Cloney poses in front of the Old Well on Carolina's campus.

Support from the Blue Sky Scholars program arrived just when this public policy and German double major needed it.

Gigi Cloney ’21 fell in love with Carolina when many prospective students do, on the campus tour. But it wasn’t the bell, or the well, or the low stone walls that Cloney fell in love with. It was the prospect of majoring in public policy.

“My tour guide was talking about how she was a double major in public policy and political science,” Cloney said. “She sold me on the public policy department and all of the opportunities that she was getting from being in the department. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that sounds like a really great place for me to be too, for what I want to do and for my future plans.’”

A member of the German National Honor Society in high school and a public policy and German double major at Carolina, Cloney had another college experience in mind: to study abroad in Germany. The only issue was how to pay for it.

“My parents made a deal with me,” Cloney said. “They would pay for me to go to Carolina, but for anything else, I’d have to figure out my own way.”

Fortunately for Cloney, she was selected as one of the inaugural Blue Sky Scholars. The scholarship fills an important gap by supporting exceptionally qualified North Carolina residents from middle-income backgrounds. With $2,500 per year in work-study employment and a one-time enrichment award of $2,500 to support internships, study abroad or other enhanced experiences, the scholarship provided Cloney with the means to study abroad.

“It was definitely a game-changer,” she said, on being selected as a Blue Sky Scholar. “When the Blue Sky scholarship was factored in, it was much easier for me to study abroad in Germany. Otherwise, I don’t know how I would have gotten there, if I would have at all. It was all very serendipitous with the timing.”

Although her time spent studying abroad in Freiburg was cut short due to COVID-19, Cloney remembers the experience fondly, noting that it “changed her” as a person.

“My friends make fun of me and say, ‘Oh, you’re the person that studied abroad in Europe and then found themselves and came back,’” she laughed. “It is very cliché, but Europe absolutely changed my life. I completely bought into it. I wasn’t there for any reason other than to take a few classes and to immerse myself. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Blue Sky Dreams

Now back in Chapel Hill for her senior year, Cloney is president of the Carolina Boxing Club, a member of the Club Gymnastics team, a member of the newly-founded Women in National Security Club, a community outreach member for Habitat for Humanity, and a study abroad peer ambassador — all on top of navigating the job market before graduating a semester early in December 2021.

She hasn’t interacted much in person with her Blue Sky Scholar cohort due to her time abroad and the pandemic, but Cloney noted that the program has been instrumental in helping in her job search.

“I have been in constant contact with one of the people who works with the Blue Sky Scholars,” Cloney said. “She’s been extremely helpful, and I wouldn’t have ever known her had it not been for Blue Sky.”

Cloney said she is able to be more selective in her job search because of the scholarship.

“I’ve been able to work because I wanted to work and gain professional experience because I wanted to build up skills that I knew would be transferable, rather than just trying to work as many hours as possible regardless of what I’m doing,” she said.

Gratitude

For Cloney, being a Blue Sky Scholar has had a tremendous impact on her college career, but also on her and her family’s financial situation.

“Oftentimes, students from middle-class families are overlooked when it comes to scholarships and financial aid,” she said. “You’re not in a position where you need your entire college paid for, but you’re also not in a position where paying for it isn’t going to put a financial strain on a family.

“The Blue Sky Scholars program has changed my college career for the better,” Cloney concluded. “My work-study jobs have been some of the most informative experiences that I’ve had, and now I have an even more profound appreciation for the faculty and staff that work with the program. They’ve been extremely helpful in navigating this transition from student to adult, and I feel like I’d have been lost without it. Beyond the financial aspect, it’s the opportunities that have come with everything that the scholarship offers that I’m the most grateful for.”

Support students like Gigi.

Gifts to the Blue Sky Scholars program count toward the Campaign for Carolina’s bold goal to raise $1 billion for scholarships by December 2022 — so that Carolina can provide more students with more opportunities. Support students from middle-income North Carolina families — and bring amazing students like Gigi to Carolina — by making a gift today!

GIVE NOW Opens in new window

Readers Also Viewed...

Carolina Covenant alum Larry Thi poses outside in front of a wooded park.
Alumni

Strengthening Alumni Connections

As the first chair of the new Carolina Covenant Alumni Advisory Board, Larry Thi is helping to strengthen alumni connections, events and services.

Delancy Allred at the Old Well.
Student Support

Scholarships at Carolina: Delancy Allred

Supporting scholarships provides opportunities for more students — students like Delancy Allred.

Carolina Covenant Scholar Juan Castro sitting with a laptop on his lap.
Student Support

Belonging and Empowerment

The Carolina Covenant helped Juan Castro '22 feel like he belonged in Chapel Hill. Now, the senior class president is serving as a mentor to younger students and an advisor to administrators as he helps create a more inclusive community at Carolina.

A student rides a bicycle in front of the Bell Tower at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Student Support

A College Education within Reach

Meet a few of the amazing students Carolina is able to attract and retain through Scholarships at Carolina.

Ashley Medina plays a flute outdoors at Carolina.

A Call to Serve

With an older sister already in college and two younger siblings, Ashley Medina was excited to learn about the support for military families through the Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge.

Peachtree Scholar Sandra Thing poses on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.
Student Support

From ATL to the Well

Meet Carolina's first Peachtree Scholar, Sandra Thiongo '23, a psychology major and member of UNC's Psych Club who is determined to make the most of her college experience.