As Gabriel Pope was looking at schools to transfer to from Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, he learned of an upcoming program the state of North Carolina was implementing called NC Promise.
At first, Pope was a little skeptical over whether the state would follow through with offering $500 per semester tuition. But once he was convinced, Pope knew he wanted to go to Western Carolina University.
“I was a little concerned with how the education would be with the school bringing in less money, but the more I learned about it, and researched it, the more I knew (WCU) was going to be a great school to go to,” Pope said. “I’m really thankful for (NC Promise) because it really helps me financially to be able to get my education.”
Pope, who is from Raleigh, transferred to WCU in the spring, a semester before NC Promise kicked in. It was during a tour of the Cullowhee campus that he decided it was where he wanted to be.
“I knew I’d have to pay one semester without NC Promise,” Pope said. “But I made the ultimate decision to come all the way out here from Raleigh just for NC Promise.”
Pope is majoring in political science, with a double minor in business and criminal justice. He hopes to go to law school and become a lawyer, then make a transition into politics. His dream is to become secretary of state.
Pope became interested in foreign policy after spending time as a youngster in other countries. The son of missionary parents, Pope lived in Nairobi, Kenya, from 2006 to 2011. He was in the fifth grade when they moved there before returning to the U.S. in time for high school. His family also has been to Istanbul, Turkey and London.
“Going (to Kenya) in the fifth grade, it was a really big culture shock,” Pope said. “I had to get used to it and adjust to it. After being there for five years, it became second nature. And then coming back here to America in my freshman year in high school, it was almost another culture shock to have to adjust back here.”
Following high school, Pope enlisted in the Navy in 2015. But during boot camp, it was discovered he had tachycardia, an abnormally rapid heart rate, and he was medically discharged.
Pope said he has enjoyed moving from the big city to the mountains. And thanks to NC Promise, he believes many other transfer students will follow his path.
“I think I made a great decision,” Pope said.