From a "solidly middle-class" family, UNC Student Body President Will Leimenstoll says that, just as in his situation, family circumstances can force any student to attend Carolina on financial aid.
As traffic passes on Elm Street in Greensboro, N.C., Leimenstoll checks his messages. Leimenstoll's family renovated an abandoned building for their home.
Leimenstoll chats with his parents, Jo Ramsay Leimenstoll and Jerry Leimenstoll, at their home in Greensboro, N.C.
The area near Leimenstoll's home on Elm Street in Greensboro, N.C., is being revitalized by young professionals with shops and restaurants.
Leimenstoll, right, sits with his parents, Jo Ramsay Leimenstoll and Jerry Leimenstoll, in their home in Greensboro, N.C.
“You can’t control every factor”
The Leimenstolls make a good living, but “you can’t control every factor,” Will Leimenstoll said. His mother developed breast cancer when he was in high school. She recovered, but the medical bills were an unexpected expense. Another surprise was the recession that halted most construction and work for architects.
During Will’s first two years at college, his sister, Ramsay, was in college out of state. His parents paid for Will’s meal plan, but he used his work study jobs as an orientation counselor and in the recycling office to cover other expenses.
“They told me, ‘We have to juggle to get both of you through college,'” he recalled. They are halfway there. Ramsay graduated in 2011 and spent the next year in Turkey as a Fulbright Fellow. Will graduates in 2013.
The Leimenstolls are big on extracurricular involvement. “If I wanted to be really involved in campus life,” said Will, who was senior class president at Grimsley High School, “I knew I would be at least as busy – if not more – as I was when I was working.” He’s involved in the Presbyterian campus ministry and Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and has participated in the Campus Y and the Sustainability Living Learning Community. He’s done undergraduate research and studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. That was before running for student body president.
He’s excelled academically, earning induction into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. With an environmental studies major and a city planning minor, Leimenstoll plans to pursue graduate school in planning and urban design. “One day, I want to be designing places like Southern Village and Meadowmont,” he said.
Many of his classmates will go on to Teach for America, the Peace Corps and other important jobs that don’t pay well. (Carolina is near the top of the list for both in terms of alumni participation.)
“Every single person here has a huge commitment to make the world better,” he said. “It’s so exciting to be around people like that. And a strong financial aid program is really needed to make sure those people are able to come here and go on to do those great things.”
Published November 5, 2012.