cholarships supplement or fund entirely a Davidson education. That’s the “what,” but in talking about the “what,” it’s easy to neglect the “who.” Scholarships tip the scales for some students as they weigh their options, or they make a college education a reality, or they allow Davidson alumni to leave this place ready to lead and serve without having to shoulder the heavy weight of student loans. Sometimes they do all of the above. Scholarships are choice, equity, freedom, and they make life better for people —talented, passionate people who will one day share their gifts with the world.
“I learned resiliency. A 90-minute commute to high school on trains and buses with no heat in Chicago will teach you that. I observed the world around me during those hours—social justice issues and how people live every day. My older brother was the first in our family to attend and graduate from college. I had to start my college search looking only at schools that would meet 100 percent of need. My interview for the Charles Scholarship was very intimate. They asked me to beatbox—that’s a passion of mine. It’s a skill I never thought would matter, but I’m pretty sure it got me into college. When I found out I got the Charles, many, many tears were shed. I came in thinking psychology, maybe, but then my Writing 101 class was sociologically based. It made me think about structures, the state, legitimized violence. It made me ask WHY.”
Angelina “Angie” Gurrola ’20 was classically trained in piano until the lessons became too expensive. She then turned to self-teaching and composing. Beatboxing entered the mix in middle school. Growing up with brothers, she learned to be tough and tenacious. She says that will help her enter the male-dominated field of music production, where she hopes her combined interests in sociology and music will lead her. The dream? To work as an audio engineer and self-produce music that remixes socially significant songs from the 1960s that are specific to Chicago, creating technological and social parallels between the nature of activism in the 1960s versus today. She aims to answer questions like, “What does activism sound like?” and “How do public figures talk about it?”
“As much as I love music and art, it feels selfish to say I’m going to devote my entire life to making music when so many people are suffering,” she says. “It helps me integrate those ideas into what I do with music. I don’t want to be dead weight on this planet. Anyone who knows me on campus probably pictures me always walking with my headphones on … purposefully forward.”
“You can like a subject, but the teacher makes or breaks it. CHEM 115 and Dr. Mitch Antsey did it for me. I fell in love with chemistry my first semester on campus. He’s already hired me to do research this summer in his lab, and our work could have implications for energy efficiency. It’s all about close connections here—that’s what makes us uniquely human. My professors, my fraternity, my a cappella group. The ability to introspect and think deeply and learn about people’s goals, fears and passions. I think it’s important to exercise that muscle, and I get to do that every day here. I wanted to come to Davidson because I wanted the small liberal arts experience, but the money was everything. My scholarship support made Davidson more affordable than Chapel Hill, so it was a no-brainer. Everything about it felt right. Still feels right.”
David Thole ’21 plans to become a physician assistant and focus on dermatology. It’s a personal passion after going through painful teenage years with severe acne, resulting in scarring that may require plastic surgery. At times, it affected his self-esteem and confidence, and helping others with similar challenges would be deeply meaningful.
An only child, Thole grew up very comfortable around a supportive community of adults but lacking the confidence to speak up around his peers. Davidson already has him moving in a different direction, toward connection with friends and peers. From his first year, he’s been all in—volunteering at a free clinic in Concord, joining the a cappella group The Generals, working in the Center for Career Development, pledging Sigma Phi Epsilon and planning summer research opportunities.
“It’s all about finding balance,” he says. “That’s really the only thing you can try to achieve in life.”
Thole is the recipient of the Shaw-Webb Scholarship and receives additional support from The Davidson Trust.
“My dad owns his own businesses, and I moved around the world growing up with my mom and step-dad. I never thought about how those influences would come together in my life, but they have. My first semester, I had to pitch a business idea, and my classmate and I came up with this idea of building a community for people who had been recently evicted. We wanted to help them successfully re-enter the housing market when they were ready. I’ve seen so much inequality and inequity. Opportunities are scarce. Social entrepreneurship is a way I can fix some things. I won’t accept that it can’t be better. My biggest fear coming to Davidson was being a black student. I didn’t want to be Langston the athlete or Langston the black kid. But Davidson felt right all along. And the Belk Scholarship made it possible.”
Langston Stephens ’21 is a Belk Scholar and two-sport athlete. He learned about Davidson through its football program, initially, but being in a non-scholarship league, he worried it wouldn’t work out financially. Then, he was nominated for and received the Belk Scholarship.
“My parents always encouraged me to think logically about my school choices, and there were certainly many plusses for me at my other top choices, Morehouse College and the University of Virginia, but after I spent a weekend at Davidson, I could not get rid of this feeling that there are opportunities I would only have here.”
The straight “A” student, football and track standout and community volunteer lived in Milwaukee, Maryland, the Philippines and Zambia—each place taught him more about the world and humanity. Davidson is where he’ll learn how he wants to change the world.
“It’s actually a struggle because it’s literally all I think about,” he says.
The Game Changers: Inspiring Leaders to Transform the World campaign has raised more than $182 million for scholarships, which continues to be the top fundraising priority for Davidson. With your help, Davidson will be able to attract more talented students like Angie,
David and Langston.