A 2007 graduate of East Wilkes High School has been awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which pays all expenses for one to three years of graduate studies at the University of Cambridge in England.
Christopher Carter is a senior who is double-majoring in political science and history in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill College of Arts and Sciences.
Born in Elkin and raised in the nearby Pleasant Hill community, Carter bagged groceries as a teenager. Before college, he'd never ventured over 400 miles from home.
The first-generation college student won a Morehead-Cain Scholarship to UNC-CH.
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship was created with a $210 million donation to Cambridge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Seattle-based foundation operates in developing countries and the United States, working domestically "to ensure that all people - especially those with the fewest resources - have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life," its website says.
Between 80 and 100 scholarships are issued annually to college students worldwide for intellectual ability, leadership and desire to perform community service. The value of the scholarship varies with the course of study chosen.
Carter, son of Debbie Lynn Carter and Reggie Lee Carter of Pleasant Hill, is Carolina's first Gates Cambridge Scholar since the awards began in 2001 and one of 30 U.S. winners this year out of 800 applicants.
"I want to pursue a Ph.D. in political science with a focus on Latin America, and completing a master's in Latin American studies at Cambridge will really help," said Carter. "Eventually I would like to be a professor of political science in comparative politics."
Carter already has had a taste of travel through the Morehead-Cain, a full, four-year merit scholarship that also provides four summer enrichment experiences. His summers included studying political history in Argentina and Chile and teaching English in Ecuador.
"In Ecuador, I taught indigenous children to play basketball, hiked through the Amazon jungle, was in a bus accident and ate more yucca than I care to remember," he said, adding that he gained an “insatiable desire to continue helping individuals in Latin America."
At Carolina, Carter won five awards for research, enabling work including an honors thesis on public opinion of the new health-care law.
He created and distributed a survey to a national sample of 900 Americans. In March, he will present his findings at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress in Washington, D.C., and the Midwest Political Science Association annual conference in Chicago.
Carter is active in student government, president of the honors program's student executive board and vice president of Phi Beta Kappa. He has been a group leader for the first-year student mentoring program and played intramural sports.
Carter's volunteer service included teaching writing and math in two Chapel Hill elementary schools, helping the Interfaith Council for Social Services and taking notes for Carolina students with disabilities.
"I was happy just to be able to come to college," Carter said. "Having these great awards to come to college has been a real blessing."