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Stepping ahead

Carolina Covenant Scholar Whitney Noble made her way to nursing school at UNC-Chapel Hill through her own hard work and a little help from C-STEP.

Whitney Noble by the Old Well.
Whitney Noble on Thursday, September 16, 2021. Noble is a Carolina Covenant Scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill. (Photo by Jen Hughey/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Whitney Noble has felt a calling to help people through the field of health care since her grandfather was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004.

“I was always helping the nurses at UNC REX Hospital with my grandfather’s care,” the Carolina junior recalled. “Even though I was just a little kid, the nurses allowed me to help, which really inspired my interest in the field.”

After graduating from John T. Hoggard High School in Wilmington, North Carolina, Noble entered the medical workforce through an externship at Miller-Motte College, where she completed her associate’s degree in medical assistance and applied science. She worked as a medical assistant for a local neurosurgeon before changing paths and taking on a similar role at a mental health outpatient facility. She loved both jobs, but Noble knew she needed more.

“I became comfortable in my roles and wasn’t challenged enough,” Noble shared. “Nobody wanted me to leave, but I had to if I was going to advance my career. I decided to go back to school for nursing.”

While pursuing an associate’s degree in nursing from Wilmington’s Cape Fear Community College, Noble was drawn to the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP), a pathway for talented low- and moderate-income high school and community college students to transfer to Carolina.

“I had no idea what C-STEP was at first, but the more I learned about the program, the more I realized it fit my situation perfectly,” said Noble. “I decided to apply and see where it took me.”

After Noble was admitted to Carolina through C-STEP, she found out that she qualified for the Carolina Covenant. Growing up in a single-parent household — her father passed away when she was young — Noble never imagined she’d be able to attend any university, much less Carolina.

“If you would have told me a few years ago that I would be at Carolina, I would have told you ‘No way.’ It was too far-fetched to even think about,” Noble said. “I could have looked into student loans, but I didn’t want to have that debt over my head for the rest of my life. It would have just added more stress to what I was already dealing with, and I probably wouldn’t have pursued it. Words can’t describe how grateful I am for the Carolina Covenant.”

As a first-generation college student who didn’t know anyone else on campus, Noble was nervous, at first, but quickly acclimated to the larger college environment and was eager to embrace her new surroundings. During her first semester in fall 2020, she took a full course load of 16 hours while living on campus as the community governor for Carmichael Residence Hall and working long hours as a nursing assistant at UNC Hospitals in the midst of the pandemic.

She also volunteered with the Orange County Health Department, administering nasal swabs for COVID-19 tests, and joined the Carolina Cancer Association, an undergraduate student organization focused on cancer research and awareness.

After completing classes in human development and family studies, she applied and was accepted to the UNC School of Nursing.

Throughout every experience at Carolina, Noble said she continuously feels grateful for the support she receives from C-STEP, Carolina Covenant, her co-workers, and the UNC Residence Housing Association, where she is a residence hall adviser at Ram Village this year.

“If it were not for C-STEP and the Carolina Covenant, I would not be the person I am today,” she said. “Both programs alleviated my financial stress and provided a wonderful community with the strong support of others to encourage me along the way.”

Noble has started nursing school this fall and has truly come “full circle” in her medical experience, as she undertakes her first clinical rotation at WakeMed hospital — the same hospital where she was born 25 years ago. While she doesn’t exactly know what the future holds, Noble is excited to see where her education and career will take her.

“I’ve been fortunate to have so much experience in so many different areas, but now I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!” Noble said, with a laugh. “My hope is to be an encouragement to others, to show that you can do anything you set your mind to, and that you can be supported by other great individuals to help lift you up to be the amazing person you are. Thank you for letting me do what I love while trying to better our community!”

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