Thomas Peters was still in high school in Raleigh when he suddenly faced supporting not just himself but his mother as well.
Peters had grown up in a home with his grandparents and his mother. His mother has a mental disability, he said, and his grandparents played an integral role in raising him.
When his grandmother passed away from lung cancer, things changed quickly. The home was no longer stable or safe, and Peters made the difficult decision to move himself and his mother out and support the two of them himself.
In the midst of the situation, he was making his college decision – and thinking about how to pay for his education. When he learned he’d receive need-based financial support from NC State, Peters said his choice was a no-brainer.
“It was pretty much a dream come true,” said the senior in Poole College of Management. “I’m not worried about student debt. For so many people, that’s a really big problem.”
Peters will be the first in his family to finish college. Growing up, he always assumed he would go to college and earn a degree. As he looks toward completing his academic work this summer, his mother is pursuing her own degree at Wake Technical Community College, working toward becoming a certified nursing assistant.
“I’m trying to help her become independent while I’m trying to become independent as well,” he said.
While in high school, Peters had attended NC State football games and seen the Wolfpack marching band. He served as drum major during his senior year at Wakefield High and hoped to continue with band in college. His grandmother had first introduced him to music, teaching him to play clarinet in sixth grade and encouraging him to stay with music.
“I still miss her, but she was a big inspiration,” Peters said.
Once on campus, Peters realized that dream. He has served as drum major for the Power Sound of the South, NC State’s marching band. He has participated in pep band and symphonic band too.
Becoming drum major involves some expected requirements – a metronome test and an audition – but the position is also decided by a student vote.
“I think that’s very cool and unique,” Peters said. “The students are able to voice who their leaders will be.”
Leading the marching band and getting up in front of those very students, alumni, parents and others who attend football games at NC State has been a memorable experience.
“Running out onto a football field in front of 60,000 people every weekend – you’d think I’d be numb to it by now, but every single time, it was incredible,” he said.
In addition to that role and his academic pursuits, Peters said the availability of resources on campus to help him navigate the path to independence for both himself and his mother has had a big impact on his time at NC State.
His financial aid came through Pack Promise, a program designed to provide a package of grants, scholarships, work-study and loans for students from challenging economic backgrounds. Pack Promise recipients are eligible for support services through TRIO, federal programs established to support the nation’s commitment to educational opportunity; TRIO is designed to help students overcome class, social and cultural barriers to higher education.
Peters has taken advantage of workshops and resources addressing everything from resume building and time management to personal finance and money management.
Sarah Wright, TRIO academic coach, serves as his adviser and, for Peters, has been a central figure on campus from whom to seek advice and assistance.
“Every problem I have, she can help with, rather than bouncing around to a lot of people,” he said.
It’s relationships like the one he built with Wright and with other students, faculty and staff that Peters values most about his time at NC State.
“While here, I figured out that I don’t do things for the reward or for the end-goal,” Peters said. “I enjoy connecting with different people over different experiences.”
The business major envisions going into information technology when he graduates, with plans to earn his MBA and eventually become chief technology officer for an organization.
He’s worked in the College of Natural Resources since his freshman year, when he found an IT job while looking for a work-study opportunity. After a year with IT, he moved over to the college’s communications office, helping build web pages, working on SEO and completing other duties.
“It’s a lot of the things that I hope to bring to my future career,” Peters said. “And it’s nice to have a flexible work schedule, and be able to work around my already busy schedule.”
This post was originally published in Giving News.