Previous Fellows Profiles

Lauren Jurgensen

Lauren Jurgensen of Rocky Point, North Carolina graduated from Heide Trask High School. Lauren has served as the Drum Major of the marching band and as the Vice President of Project Unify Club. She has earned top chairs as a flute player in various county, district, and honors bands and is a member of National Honors Society, Science Olympiad, Student Government Association, and the North Carolina Special Olympics Youth Activation Council. During her gap year, Lauren plans to work with special needs students in Russia and learn about sustainable farming practices in South America.

Thilini Weerakkody

Thilini Weerakkody of Chapel Hill, North Carolina is graduating from Chapel Hill High School and plans to attend the University of North Carolina as a Biology major. In High School, she was the president of Stop Hunger Now, the secretary of Model United Nations, a member of the tennis team, and a violinist. She also regularly volunteered with KIDZU Children’s Museum and Carrboro Elementary Summer School, and also was a peer-tutor. She was the public relations manager of Udeshi Hargett’s Wedding Violinist business and an intern for the Town of Chapel Hill’s Housing department. During her gap year, Thilini plans to volunteer in Morocco, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar.

Sophie Nachman

Sophie Nachman of Chapel Hill, North Carolina graduated from Woods Charter School with a supplemental diploma from the North Carolina School of Science and Math Online Program. At school she was involved in weekly writing workshops and school publications. Outside of school she is a dedicated musician, playing violin for 13 years and participating in the Greensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra for the last 4 years. Sophie also enjoys traveling and spending time outdoors with her family. She is passionate about language and culture and particularly enjoys learning about her French-Lebanese heritage. She hopes to put her proficiency in French to good use during her Gap Year by spending several months in Morocco. She is particularly excited about the cultural and geographical diversity of the country as well as seeing goats that climb trees (because she thinks that’s super cool). Upon her return to Carolina, Sophie plans to study […]

MaryBeth Thomas

MaryBeth Thomas of Bakersville, North Carolina graduated from Mitchell High School with highest honors. Thomas was active in technical theatre and will be competing at the National ITS Competition in Lincoln, Nebraska. She has also received highest recognition in her high school marching band as the John Philip Sousa recipient. She has served as section leader and Drum Major and will lead her school’s band as they represent North Carolina at the National Independence Day Parade in July. MaryBeth has participated in three varsity sports– volleyball, basketball and softball– and was recently named female scholar athlete of the year by her school. Outside of school she has been active in visual art, attending Governor’s School in art and earning a place in the National Art Honors Society. She has been an active member of student council as her senior class president and has served as a volunTEEN in her […]

Klaus Mayr

Klaus Mayr of Charlotte, North Carolina graduated from Myers Park High School where he was part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program. Mayr was the president of Community Connections and the MUSTANG Project, two clubs that strive to teach and encourage sustainability, education, and nutrition with community gardens in a low-income community and on the school’s campus. He also served as Editor-in-Chief of his school newspaper, worked at The Map Shop, and was the president of his Ultimate Frisbee team. Mayr plans to travel to Southeast Asia, Southern Africa, and South America where he hopes to work with organizations to improve sustainable local governments. He plans to major in Global Studies.

Anna Bennett

Anna Bennett of Garner, North Carolina graduated from Garner Magnet High School where she was involved with the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program. She was a performer in all of the shows at Garner as well as a director for the Spring One Act production, and the Choreographer for the past four musicals at Garner. She was given the opportunity to play a lead role her junior and senior year. For at least one year she has been a member of the BETA Club, GMHS Drama Leadership Team, Homecoming Committee, Homecoming Court, YoungLife, and the Cross Country Team. Outside of school, she is a dancer with Feet On Fire, a competitive clogging team. She is passionate about service and she spends Saturday afternoons tutoring refugee children with Net Church Academy. Every year she participates in Appalachian Service Project and Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network. For her gap year, she hopes to […]

Kalli Bunch

At the end of her senior year in high school, Kalli was unsure about what she wanted to study at Carolina. When she received the Global Gap Year Fellowship she was relieved: this was an opportunity to get to know herself, think about her goals, and serve others. She travelled to Nepal and Sri Lanka, renovating temples and working with children in orphanages.
Kalli left the United States wanting to return and study chemistry. Two years later she finds herself at the beginning of her sophomore year as a Global Studies major. She hasn’t entirely given up on chemistry, but after her gap year she knew she didn’t want to work in labs.
Kalli’s gap year has also played a role in her class selections. She has drawn to classes on the impact of humanitarianism and on human geography. Her experiences questioning the meaning of an American identity abroad […]

Bella Hernandez

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In high school, Bella Hernandez had always been successful. She was the president of several clubs and student groups, taught mini-sessions, and got good grades. When it came to preparing for college, however, something was missing. She didn’t feel ready to make the most out of college and generally did not feel ready to continue her studies. Understanding this about herself, Bella took a gap year through the Global Gap Year Fellowship and travelled to India, Iceland, and Germany, where she taught English and science, worked in a mental hospital, and volunteered at an orphanage.

The gap year gave Bella a global perspective of college education. Her experiences abroad have encouraged her to move away from her initial plan of studying philosophy towards something with more practical applications. While abroad, Bella came to see medical research as the best way to make a truly global impact. She plans to become […]