It Starts With Me…

a montage of scholarsThe Magnolia Scholars program carries the legacy of “Old Wake Forest. ” When Wake Forest opened, it was an Eastern North Carolina, white, male, Baptist college. Virtually all of the students were from farms and small towns, many were first generation college students. They left Wake Forest with grand ambitions to serve the larger state, regional, and national community, building our institutional reputation with their deeds.  Though we are now a nationally ranked university with a richly diverse population, we are still that same small school at heart. The first generation students that built Wake Forest will always be a special population here.

A Magnolia Scholar Story: Alex Reyes

Maybe it was when she gave her family a tour of the Wake Forest campus that first time. Or maybe it was the day she first walked into the Manhattan headquarters of PriceWaterhouseCoopers as an intern. Alex Reyes isn’t quite sure when the enormity of her family’s story and her place in it first struck her, but it is more resonant than ever.

Before they had met, Reyes’ parents moved separately from their native Dominican Republic so their descendants wouldn’t have to haul buckets of water for two round-trip miles each day. It is now fair to say Alex is more than carrying her load and has plans to keep doing so.

“Immigrants tend to be criminalized, and obviously, that’s not true,” she said. “Politicians should realize that immigrants want to come to the U.S. for a better opportunity – especially like my father – for their children. We’re hard-working, and we just want a better chance at education.”

The native of the New York City metropolitan area was just about to head to her high school graduation ceremony in 2014 when she opened an email that detailed the extent of her Magnolia Scholarship to Wake Forest. The news made a happy day even more joyful.

“Out of all the schools I applied to, Wake Forest was the only one that had a program for First Generation students,” she said. “That was surprising. It was also surprising to see how much they had offered me in scholarships, too.”

Upon arriving, Reyes took a deep-dive into faculty-mentored research in Sociology that landed her a summer opportunity in Birmingham, AL, centered around immigration legislation. She spoke with activists, lawyers, police officers and anybody else who would talk, and she presented her findings on campus a few months later.

“It made me feel like my work was meaningful,” she said. “Even if I wasn’t helping the cause directly, I had a voice and I was helping the voiceless have a voice in all of this.”

Mindful of strangers’ philanthropy and her parents’ struggles, Reyes remains determined to maximize her time on a weekly basis. She has volunteered as a tutor for children in Math and English through El Buen Pastor, a local nonprofit; mentored disabled children through Helping Overcome Physical Expectations, a student group for which she has served as treasurer; chaired the campus membership efforts of Nourish International, which funneled support to Rwanda; remotely mentored a Rwandan high school student; and helped introduce three Chinese students to Wake Forest.

When not directly helping the world, she has seen it. During a semester in Barcelona, Spain, Reyes was able to travel on weekends to Madrid, Rome, London, Amsterdam, Montserrat, Morocco and the Sahara Desert, where she rode a camel and saw the sun rise.

She worked for PriceWaterhouseCoopers in 2016 and earned a return a year later. The news that her daughter had an opportunity in a promising career field moved Reyes’ mom to tears.

The scene is likely to repeat itself in 2018, when Reyes anticipates graduating with a degree in Sociology and a Business concentration.

Magnolia Scholar to Featured Graduate

20150507linnet2986Linnet Hennkens-Cruz is one of 17 graduates featured for the Wake Forest University 2015 Commencement. Linnet majored in Spanish and plans to work as a legal interpreter and freelance as a translator for a year in Arizona. Afterwards, she plans to attend law school and become an international or immigration lawyer.

Magnolia Scholar to Fulbright Finalist

Araceli Morales-Santos (’14) is one of nine Wake Forest recent graduates and alumni to be selected as a finalist for the US Student Fulbright Program. Araceli will be an English Teaching Assistant in Brazil (2016). Good luck and success to Araceli! Read more >>>

A Magnolia Scholar Defines Pro Humanitate

Joseph Belangia, Hit the Bricks

Last weekend, Joseph Belangia was chopping wood in rural Wake County to provide firewood to families in need. A few days before, he raced around Hearn Plaza to raise money for the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund during Hit the Bricks. Today, he is working to achieve his goal to expand a service project at a local retirement community to 200 volunteers. Click here to read more.

Magnolia Scholars Program Receives 6.5M Gift

Dr. Steve and Mrs. Becky Scott

Dr. Steven and Becky Scott have committed $6.5 million to further the education of first generation college students through Wake Forest’s Magnolia Scholars program. Click here to read the full story

Weaving education, entertainment

The first showing is always the most difficult. Last April, when Wake Forest senior Jawad Wahabzada (’14) premiered his documentary “Children of Kabul” at RiverRun Film Festival, it was to a packed crowd filled with so many faces, he felt a little intimidated. Click here to read more


Preparing for your path

When Corynn Kolberg arrived at Wake Forest last August, she was surprised to see a session with the Office of Personal and Career Development (OPCD) on her orientation schedule. After all, she was just a first-year student. Click here to read the full article

‘Children of Kabul’ Documentary by Jawad Wahabzada

Starting at age seven, Wake Forest junior and Magnolia Scholar, Jawad Wahabzada spent four years working eight hours a day as a child laborer in Afghanistan making Persian rugs in a factory. Though he now lives 7,000 miles from his birth country, his heart is not far from the children of Kabul. Click here to read the entire article

Chakayla Taylor, Fashionista

Flash back to September 2008: I was a senior high school student attending Prospective Student Day in the Wake Forest University Schools of Business. I was captivated with the idea of applying to the business school. Though English was a passion of mine, I was ready to trade in that dream for power suits and leather briefcases. Click here to read more

First-Generation Students Spread Their Roots in College Pursuits

Making the transition from high school to college is daunting for every student, but even more so for first-generation college students.

Almost 10 percent of the undergraduate population at Wake Forest is comprised of first-generation students, and the university is dedicated to continuing the tradition of affording competitive educations to students from all walks of life through the Magnolia Scholarship program. Click here to read the article