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Ashley Medina playing flute in front of the bell tower
Ashley Medina is a Vetter Scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill. (Photo by Jen Hughey/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Growing up as a “military kid,” Ashley Medina ’25 moved around several times before her family settled in Jacksonville, North Carolina, home of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, in 2016. While countless North Carolinians consider Carolina their “dream school,” that originally wasn’t the case for Medina.

“I never had a ‘dream’ school,” Medina said. “I wanted to attend the school that was the best fit for me. I wanted to stay close to home, but a little far away, and Chapel Hill was a good distance from Jacksonville. After looking into it further, I heard great things about the school, academically and socially. I knew I would be able to succeed here.”

However, with an older sister already in college and two younger siblings, Medina also knew that she had to make the right choice for her family, financially.

“For us, a middle-to-lower-middle-income family, I knew that putting four students through college would take a toll on our family’s financial situation,” she said. “I wanted to do my part and apply to as many scholarships as I could so that they didn’t have to worry as much.”

As fellow children of Marine Corps veterans, Steve and Debbie Vetter ’78 understood the sacrifices that service members and their families make in serving their country and providing for their children’s educations. The Vetters established the Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge to make Carolina more affordable for new generations of military dependents.

As a Vetter Military Family Scholar, Medina is a beneficiary of that challenge. She found out she received the scholarship while working the summer before her first year at Carolina.

“I received an email that said my financial aid had changed, and my first thought was, ‘Oh no. It’s probably going to go down,’” she said. “Then I read the email, and it said I was a Vetters’ Scholar, and I was really surprised and grateful.”

Having just started her first year at Carolina, Medina is thrilled to network with other Vetters’ Scholars on campus and to meet the Vetters themselves.

“I didn’t realize how many people had received this scholarship, and after looking more into it, it’s amazing to see what the Vetters and Red, White and Carolina Blue Challenge donors have done not only for the Carolina community, but for military-affiliated students,” she said. “I’m excited and intrigued to meet everyone!”

A flautist in the UNC Marching Band and member of the Tau Beta Sigma Honorary Band Sorority, Medina plans to major in medical anthropology and wants to become a pediatric surgeon. She also aspires to follow in her father’s footsteps and serve the country as a member of the armed forces.

“I’ve talked to military recruiters who have told me that after my time as an undergrad, I’ll be able to go to med school while giving time for the country,” Medina continued. “I’d like to serve for a minimum of four years after college.”

For Medina, the opportunity to be named a Vetters’ Scholar is not one she takes for granted.

“If it weren’t for the Vetters’ scholarship, I would have definitely had to look at my options for other schools. I’m not sure I would have been able to come to Carolina, and if I did, I probably would have been in debt for a long time.

“I think everyone should have an opportunity for further education, and sometimes people don’t go to college because of their financial situations,” she concluded. “I’m very grateful and appreciative to be a Vetters’ Scholar.”

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