Fike senior Abby Hodges named Park scholar

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Abby Hodges, a senior at Fike High School, has been selected to receive the prestigious, full-ride Park Scholarship from North Carolina State University.

Hodges is the daughter of Sherry and Gary Hodges of Wilson.

Abby will graduate this spring and will major in genetics and science technology and society when she attends N.C. State.

After an extensive application process that began in October, Abby learned in April 10 that she would receive the scholarship.

“I was completely surprised,” Abby said. “When I got it I was ecstatic. There was definitely a lot of celebrating that night.”

Abby has always been interested in science and biology.

“When I found out that N.C. State had genetics as a major, I definitely wanted to do that instead of just biology because I know that genetics is one of my passions of science,” Abby said.

Abby hopes that her course of study will prepare her for work as a genetics counselor.

“Genetics counselors mainly work with couples who are trying to have children, and they want to see the chances of their children having a genetic disorder or hereditary disorder,” Abby said.

While researching potential jobs in STEM fields, Abby discovered that for genetics counselors, there is an expected job growth rate of 29 percent by 2020, which would be about when she would graduate.

“I knew that I would be very passionate in genetics because not only are you doing something in science, but you would be also helping others and helping them figure out what they need to do,” Abby said.

Abby’s courses will include a lot of science, biology, chemistry and organic chemistry. In her junior and senior year, she will be taking genetics courses, conducting genetics research and possibly teaching.

The Park Scholarship is valued at $111,000 for in-state students. This covers all fees including books and personal expenses, and scholars are provided with a computer for their studies. The full-ride scholarship also includes grants to study abroad and participate in other learning opportunities like seminars.

“I am mainly excited about having that camaraderie with the other Park scholars,” Abby said. “In the group, including me, there will be 35 Park scholars. One thing in particular that I am looking forward to is a retreat that the Park scholars go on right before school starts in August. I am really ready to be with a group of people who are similar to me in their academic determination. The majority of them are STEM majors.”

Abby is part of the International Baccalaureate program at Fike High School.

“Through that, I have definitely learned how to become an independent thinker and an independent learner,” Abby said. “I was able to learn how to go home and teach myself biology and topics that are more complex. Through this I was able to learn exactly what study techniques are best for me and personally I learn best when I go home and read the notes and form my own notes in my own words rather than reading a textbook and then I will actually read a lot myself, and through that I am able to comprehend exactly what I am supposed to know.”

Abby said she’s received support from family and friends along with community mentors.

“There are three women in particular who have helped me tremendously through the Park process,” Abby said.

They include Deb Rogers, counselor at Fike High School, who helped her apply for the scholarship and proofread her essays.

Abby also singled out Paula Benson of Wilson 20/20 Community Vision and Beth Searcy, first lady of Barton College, as being “two of the most empowering women I know in Wilson” for help with interview techniques and advice.

“I can’t even describe how much that helped me during that process because interviews were a very crucial part to this in figuring out if you were the right fit for the Park Scholarship,” Abby said. “Without them, I would not be where I am today.”