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Making a Difference

Plemmons scholarship encourages student to step out, lead

Evan Atkinson, a journalism major from Raleigh, N.C., who is a junior at Appalachian, aspires to a career in music journalism. Atkinson is part of the Plemmons Leadership Scholars Program, which helps students develop their leadership skills. Photo by Marie Freeman ’85

When Evan Atkinson was in high school, his parents told him to look at whatever college he wanted and they would find a way to pay for it.

“That was very sweet of them, but I don’t know how accurate it was,” he said. “My dad has a rare immune disorder and needs monthly blood transfusions to boost his immune system. His medical bills are huge.”

Even with his parents’ support, Atkinson, a journalism major from Raleigh, North Carolina, said he likely would have had to work a number of part-time jobs rather than immerse himself in the opportunities college had to offer, if not for the Plemmons Leadership Scholars Program.

“I think the opportunities you get through the Plemmons program push you to do so much more than you think you can do,” he said. “The scholarship has given me space to learn and to go out and take advantage of every opportunity I’ve been given.”

As Atkinson, a junior, looks back on his college journey, he can tick off a number of accomplishments of which he’s proud, including speaking before a crowd of over 1,000 people at a recent campus event.

“I was terrified of public speaking when I came to college,” he said. “This year they needed some people to speak about why they participate in the Walk for Awareness,” an annual silent walk through campus to commemorate lives lost to violence in the Appalachian community.

“My gut reaction was, ‘Oh gosh, how many people?’ But I said, ‘Of course I’ll do it.’ The Evan who came to college couldn’t imagine speaking in front of so many people.”

A number of opportunities in event planning, mentoring and marketing have given him tremendous confidence, Atkinson said.

“I feel like no matter what I’m going to do, I’m going to be effective,” he said. “I’ve been given enough opportunity and time to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.”

Atkinson is aware of other Plemmons scholars’ influence and impact after graduation.

“In looking at Plemmons alumni stories, there are people running for congressional office, people who are doctors, lawyers and fire fighters — people who change people’s lives on a daily basis,” he said.

As the student coordinator for the scholarship, Atkinson wants potential donors to be aware of the impact they can make by supporting student scholarships.

“You’re not just investing in a person,” he said. “More than that, you’re investing in the impact that person’s going to make.”

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