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Meet a Tar Heel: Nick Newlin

For first-generation college student Nick Newlin, Carolina was always his dream school. Now, the dream has come true.

Nick Newlin portrait
Nick Newlin stands for a portrait on campus (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Nick Newlin, a native of the small unincorporated community of Snow Camp, North Carolina, in southern Alamance County about 30 minutes from Chapel Hill, grew up coming to Carolina’s campus with his parents, who often worked in the area.

Now, Newlin ’22 is fulfilling a lifelong goal of becoming a Tar Heel.

“It’s my dream school,” said Newlin, who plans on studying business. “It’s always been my dream school.”

As the first member of his family to attend college, he comes to Carolina with the mission of making good on the investment his parents and mentors have given him and with a focus on helping others.

“I not only want to make [my parents] proud, but I also want to have the best kind of future that I can have because they’ve given a lot for me,” he said.

Breaking out of his shell

One of those mentors who invested a lot in Newell is Keith Jones, an agricultural teacher and advisor of the FFA chapter at Newlin’s Southern Alamance High School. Jones encouraged Newlin — a hesitant and quiet kid who was prone to sit off by himself — to join the FFA, a career and technical organization that promotes and supports agricultural education for middle school and high school students.

The FFA taught him the technical skills in agriculture that helped Newlin and his school finish second in a competition at the FFA’s national convention in Indianapolis in 2017. Newlin will also help the team compete again in October.

But he also learned critical leadership and communications skills.

“It absolutely brought me out of my shell,” Newlin said.

Newlin saw how the officers held themselves and how their peers respected them. He wanted to be like them. In his junior and senior years, he became an officer and served as the club’s sentinel.

Stationed by the door for each meeting, he would say, “Through these doors pass many friends of the FFA. It is my duty to see that the door is open to our friends at all times and that they are welcome.”

True to the words he spoke, Newell would always talk to anyone and everyone he could — essentially serving as host of the meetings. He wanted to reach out to people and help them.

“I felt the need to help people, whether they were like me in my situation and help them become more confident, or to just do any good that I honestly could,” Newlin said.

As a first-year student, Newlin said he wanted to continue reaching out to and helping people — like those who helped him. When he graduates, he hopes he can look back on his year’s at Carolina and say that he had an impact on at least one person.

“Maybe I can’t leave a mark on the whole University,” Newlin said, “but I really hope that I can say that I’ve done something impactful in someone’s life.”