When I began my search for colleges I have to admit that Wake Forest wasn’t exactly at the top of my list. I was born in a city where people bleed one of two colors, Carolina blue or Blue Devil navy, and like so many of my high school classmates I was determined to bleed one of those two colors myself one day. So when my senior year rolled around and it came time for me to visit these schools, I hopped in the car with my mom and dad and took a short trip down Interstate 40.
After visiting the campuses, I decided that the people were friendly and that the campuses were nice enough, but it didn’t take much for me to realize that they were both missing that special something; that something that makes you feel like you never left home. We got back in our car and headed for home, but as we made our way back my mom suggested that we go to Winston-Salem and have a look at Wake Forest on our next outing.
Little did I know that trip the following weekend would change the entire direction of my life. I came to campus and absolutely fell in love. When I stepped on the Quad for the very first time I imagine that it felt similar to the way my dad felt when he first met my mom. I had that feeling deep down inside that says to you “this is it.” It wasn’t just the physical beauty of the campus that had me, though. It had much more to do with the fact that just about every single person I encountered on my visit had something positive to say about the University and looked and acted like they genuinely enjoyed being here.
After that visit, my mind was made up. I was going to be a Demon Deacon no matter what it took! But when I came home and spoke with my parents about the prospect of coming to Wake Forest, I realized that we had some very tough decisions to make. My dad had been forced into early retirement, and college was also on the horizon for my younger brother who was just a year behind me.
I lived a comfortable life growing up, and I never wanted for anything, but our financial situation simply wouldn’t allow me to attend a school like Wake Forest. But I remember saying to my mom “no worries, we’ll find a way.” Fortunately, help came in the form of the Joseph G. Gordon Scholarship.
I’m proud to say that I have made the most of my time at Wake Forest, and I’ve had the opportunity to do some incredible things. I’ve studied abroad at the University of Cambridge. I’ve conducted research on a Caribbean Island. I’ve explored five different countries and even learned to speak another language along the way. All of these experiences have taught me important life lessons and have prepared me well to pursue a master’s degree in public policy next year.
I truly appreciate how Wake Forest has cultivated my desire to dedicate my life to serving others, and I absolutely cannot wait to spread the seeds of Wake Forest everywhere I go. But none of these things would ever have been possible had it not been for the kindness and the generosity of people like those of you sitting in the room this morning.
So this morning I say thank you. Thank you for enabling future generations of students to have the experiences that I’ve had. Thank you for ensuring that this University will continue to be a diverse and dynamic place where people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds can succeed and feel welcomed.
But most of all, thank you for making my dream of becoming a student at Wake Forest University come true.
Evan Raleigh (’09), political science major from Greensboro, NC.