Before SUNY Broome, Kaitlyn Thomas would never have imagined herself as the winner of the prestigious Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship – or as a member of an international honor society.
“I never thought I was academically strong, so being told I could join an honor society was a ‘wow’ thing,” reflected the Norwich native, who is among only 200 Phi Theta Kappa members across the country to receive the $1,000 scholarship.
This year’s recipients were chosen by a panel of independent judges from nearly 900 applicants, based on outstanding academic achievement and demonstrated leadership potential.
And Kaitlyn is indeed a leader in SUNY Broome’s chapter of PTK. As vice president of membership and fellowship, she talks to current and incoming members about the honor society’s benefits – including scholarship opportunities and the Honors Case Study Challenge, a gold star on a resume or transfer application.
For the Case Study Challenge, PTK posts a general theme; this year, it’s “transformations.” Participating students create a thesis and conduct research to prove that thesis, a bit like a science experiment, she explained. Right now, Kaitlyn and her fellow PTK students are exploring the impact of a plant-based diet on the environment, including such factors as the methane produced by cattle and the potential for pollution.
A sophomore Liberal Arts major, Kaitlyn plans to graduate in May 2020 and transfer to a university, where she can double-major in American history and English literature.
“It’s interesting to see where we were in the past and how we can use it to redirect our future,” she explained. “And on the literature side, I love reading and analyzing and discussing characters.”
Her dream school is Hamilton College in Clinton, but backup plans include SUNY Buffalo and SUNY Albany. Her long-term goal is to become a college professor, much like those who influenced her trajectory at SUNY Broome.
These include PTK advisor Irene Byrnes, who encourages Kaitlyn to apply for scholarships and other opportunities, and English Professor Suzanne Shepard, who has supported her teaching aspirations.
“One reason I prefer teaching older students is because they’re more consciously aware of the world around them and more focused on their education,” Kaitlyn said.
Kaitlyn chose SUNY Broome for practical reasons: It allows her to stay close to her family and pay for her education without taking out loans or going into debt. An added plus: It’s just far enough away from her Chenango County home that she can explore her independence and meet new people.
What she found was so much more – a direction for her future, newfound confidence and opportunities such as the Leaders of Promise Scholarship.
“Academically, I wasn’t the strongest in high school. I went to Broome and that has helped me very much,” she said. “If you’re not sure about what you want to do, I highly suggest a community college. It’s the best way to go.”