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Campus Y selects 2017-2018 Global Gap Year Fellows

July 31, 2017 • Erin Reitz • No Comments

The Campus Y at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has selected ten 2017-2018 Global Gap Year Fellowship (GGYF) recipients. These eight, incoming first-year students and two rising juniors will defer a year of university enrollment to gain informal, global education that combines volunteer service, work, and international travel.

Over 70 students applied for the competitive fellowship, which provides up to $7,500 for each recipient to use toward travel, living expenses and other trip costs.

While the GGYF is traditionally reserved for incoming first-year students, this year a collaboration with student-run The Meantime Coffee Co., enabled the program to grant two inaugural Bridge Year Fellowships to rising juniors Araseli Valverde and Kaitlin Galindo.

The Meantime’s co-founders Keegan McBride and Scott Diekema started the fair-trade coffee company with the intention of providing students with scholarships and professional development opportunities.

“We are thrilled to be living out our mission within our first year by funding scholarships for two students. We owe that feat entirely to our customers who gave us a tremendous amount of support this past year,” said Diekema, a rising senior. “As The Meantime grows in the years to come, I am excited to see how we can further our reinvestment into the community.”

Gap years are currently in the media limelight as former President Barak Obama’s daughter Malia Obama opted to take one in 2016 before enrolling at Harvard this year. The GGYF program is unique in that it subsidizes self-designed travel and specifically recruits first generation college students, lower income youth and students of color.

For the students who become part of the GGYF, their gap year is part of a vibrant, 5-year college career. Post-trip surveys have revealed that the GGY fellows are better equipped to face the social and academic challenges of university life upon their return. GGY alumni have gone on to distinguish themselves at UNC as distinguished scholarship winners, social entrepreneurs and social justice leaders.

“The Global Gap Year Fellowship has made me more confident in my personal and professional goals,” said Logan Pratico, a 2016 GGY fellow who traveled to Bolivia and Ecuador. “I have gained so much confidence from my gap year, and the skills I learned and refined abroad – listening, helping, asking for help – are so useful to me in college.”

Sarah Smith, GGYF program director, welcomed the new group of fellows to campus in July for pre-departure orientation.

“Each year the caliber of our applications increases as more students become aware of the benefits of a gap year,” said Smith. “I’m hopeful that this diverse cohort will continue and expand upon the legacy of public service and global citizenship that previous Fellows have created.”

The 2017-2018 cohort’s interests range from English education and environmental sustainability to immigration reform and dance. Recipients are listed below, alphabetically by North Carolina county and then by state.


Caldwell County

Shelby Watson of Collettsville graduated from West Caldwell High School, where she was co-president of Beta Club, a student council representative and played right field on the softball team. She has a passion for the outdoors and enjoys serving others, including a semester long internship at Tuttle Educational State Forest. Watson plans to volunteer in South Africa and Peru.

Craven County

Viktoria Alston of Havelock graduated from Havelock High School, where she was involved with JROTC and band and participated in the Spanish Club, Interact Club and National Honor Society. Alston was also vice-chair and co-chair of the Havelock Youth Advisory Committee. She plans to spend time in Latin America.

Mecklenburg County

Janis Arrojado of Concord graduated from North Carolina School of Science and Math, where she was involved in numerous sustainability initiatives and ecology research and also danced Tinikling, a form of Filipino dance. She was treasurer of her Interact Club and a finalist for MIT Inspire. Arrojado plans to travel to Southeast Asia to work on environmental sustainability.

Orange County

Katie Huge of Carrboro graduated from Chapel Hill High School, where she was a member of the National Honor Society and played varsity volleyball, serving as captain for two years. She also taught volleyball to local youth and volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House. Huge plans to work on sustainability efforts in South America and Thailand.

Stokes County

Araseli Valverde (Bridge Fellow) of Pinnacle is a rising junior and an active member of the Campus Y’s Bonner Leadership Program. She is double majoring in global studies and public policy and plans to spend her time abroad in Italy and Brazil.

Wake County

Natalie Barth of Wake Forest graduated from Franklin Academy High School, where she sang in the chorus and played varsity soccer. In addition to being a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, National History Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society, Barth also served as the vice president of Junior Civitan and participated in numerous local service projects. She plans to visit Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and sub-Saharan Africa to work on water conservation.

Jennings Dixon of Apex graduated from Holly Springs High School, where he was a member of the band and earned recognition as most outstanding freshman and sophomore musician and as a finalist for the NC All State Honor Band. Dixon is an Eagle Scout and a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, National Science Honor Society, National Junior Classical League and Tri-M Music Honor Society. He plans to spend time in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and East Asia.

Georgia Morgan of Cary graduated from Apex High School, where she participated in Nourish International, the Feminism Club, the Environmental Club and was a member of the National Honor Society. She was also a member of the Apex High School Strings program playing in both the classical guitar ensemble and advanced orchestra. Morgan volunteered for TeenCORE of Cary and participated in a weekly tutoring program for youth. She plans to volunteer in Thailand and New Zealand. 



Daniel Almaguer graduated from Mount Carmel Academy in Houston, where he participated in student council, Newman Club and the National Honor Society, was captain of the Houston Urban Debate League and was selected as an EMERGE Scholar. During the summer of 2016, Almaguer was a Summer Scholar at Washington University in St. Louis. He plans to travel and serve in Senegal, India, and Nepal.


Kaitlin Galindo (Bridge Fellow) of Centreville is an Honors Carolina student and an active member of the Campus Y. She is a public relations and political science double major who plans to travel in Indonesia.


About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 77 bachelor’s, 113 master’s, 68 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. Every day, faculty, staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s more than 318,000 alumni live in all 50 states and 157 countries. More than 167,000 live in North Carolina.

About the Global Gap Year Fellowship

The GGYF is the only college-sponsored gap year program that allows students to design their own gap-year experience. The fellowship, launched in 2011, was made possible by an anonymous gift of $1.5 million to the Campus Y and supports students who would not otherwise be able to fund their service work. The Campus Y works with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Center for Global Initiatives to select a diverse group of students who are encouraged to combine their personal interests, such as artistic endeavors, social justice issues, and environmental issues, with their work while abroad.


Campus Y contact: Erin Reitz, (919) 962-2333,

University Communications contact: MC VanGraafeiland, (919) 962-7090,

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