The Day the Dream Came True
by Christopher Lane, rising junior
I was a Southern white boy in Harlem. Walking down Malcolm X Boulevard, there was something notably different about me. It wasn’t the color of my skin. It was the mile-wide grin on my face.
I had been working in a soup kitchen in West Harlem for a week when I got the call. I answered my phone, puzzled by the unknown number from back home in North Carolina. I really wasn’t expecting this call. It may as well have been from God himself – the call was an answer to a prayer I’d been praying for upwards of six years.
I was on an alternative spring break trip during my freshman year with several students from Appalachian State University. I was a Mountaineer at the time, but was seeking to become a Tar Heel by transferring to Carolina.
I had always known that Carolina was the college for me. However, from the beginning, I ran into a pretty big barrier. I had no clue how I’d afford it. An unconventional family situation left me the sole financial contributor toward my college education. This disqualified me from most aid and scholarships offered.
In my senior year of high school, I applied to UNC and was accepted. I literally jumped for joy when I heard the news. Then, reality set in. I had no way to pay for an education at UNC. I had not received any aid to help defray the cost of attendance. On the other hand, I was being offered a full merit scholarship from Appalachian. When the deadline approached in May, I made one of the most difficult choices of my life. I decided to spend the next four years of my life in Boone rather than Chapel Hill.
From the start, things didn’t sit well with me at Appalachian. I didn’t fit in at all. Deep down, I knew that I belonged in Chapel Hill. In the spring of my freshman year, I began to make every effort to transfer to UNC, even if it meant driving myself deep into debt.
That’s when I got the call. Standing on a street corner in New York City, I answered my phone. The call was from an assistant director of the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid at UNC. She told me that I would be classified as a financially independent student when I was considered for aid and scholarships. That meant I’d only have to take out around $2,000 in loans per year. When I heard this, I nearly dropped my phone right there on the busy streets of the Big Apple.
I’ll always look back to that day as my most vivid memory of Carolina. It was the day that my dream came true; the day that I knew I’d be a Tar Heel. As a current student at UNC, every new experience that I have points back to that phone call. All that I am now doing as a Tar Heel and Carolina student is possible because of that day. I still have over two years left here in Chapel Hill and I know they’ll be filled with joyful times and valuable life lessons. As a future alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I will be able to look back on these memories and smile. Some of them might be difficult to recall, but this one memory will stand out as clear as ever. I’ll never forget the day that my Carolina dream came true.
Christopher Lane, of Edenton, is a rising junior majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and math. An alumnus of the N.C.School of Science and Mathematics, he plans to return to Durham after graduation to teach high school math.