Chatham Science & Engineering student Dylan Phillips wins prestigious Park Scholarship

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Dylan Phillips rode horses before she was even born. Her mom first put her on a horse when she was still in the womb. Now, at age 18, Phillips has experienced her highest and lowest points from atop the saddle.

“The horses taught me resilience,” she said. “They taught me how to take advantage of what I have and to value how fleeting life is.”

And from the stables to the classroom, the Pittsboro student’s resilience is what drives her to be the best in everything she does.

Her can-do attitude is just one reason she earned North Carolina State University’s most prestigious honor for incoming first-year students — the Park Scholarship. Phillips is one of just 42 students to receive the honor, having been selected from a pool of more than 2,400 global applicants.

According to the university, the scholarship “brings exceptional students to N.C. State based on outstanding accomplishments and potential in scholarship, leadership, service, and character and prepares them to make lifelong contributions to communities throughout the world.”

Dylan has been awarded a four-year scholarship, valued at $116,000 for in-state students. The scholarship covers tuition, fees and room and board at N.C. State. As a Park Scholar, Dylan will also receive a stipend toward personal expenses, and Park Scholars have access to enrichment grants to pursue research, service or creative projects.

Phillips is the first student from Chatham School of Science & Engineering to receive the scholarship, but she hopes she is far from the last.

“I feel like it’s great to be able to push that boundary,” Phillips said. “Even though we are from one of the smallest school in an already rural county, that doesn’t mean we aren’t capable of achieving big things. You’re not defined by where you come from.”

Dylan is part of the school’s third graduating class from CSSE, and her principal Bobby Dixon said it’s unsurprising she is the first one to receive this honor.

“She’s an exemplary student both academically and socially,” Dixon said. “For her to be able to complete high school and an associate’s degree with an unweighted 4.0 GPA, it’s a feat.”

Her accomplishments are even more impressive when considering the reason she chose to come to CSSE in the first place. Dylan said she chose the early college program because the smaller class sizes would provide her more academic flexibility to compete with her horses. She said she frequently had to miss classes for competitions and riding camps, but she always made up for lost classroom time by being on top of her assignments.

Coming into her first year at N.C. State, Phillips will have 75 credit hours, meaning she already has more credits than most sophomores at the university. But don’t think her advantages means she’ll slack off in Raleigh. Phillips said she plans to take on a double major or possibly even graduate-level research all while continuing to ride horses competitively.

“Leisure time isn’t something I’m familiar with,” Phillips said. “Now, I have room to play with at my time at State.”

Dixon said Phillips’s nonstop nature is how she left a legacy at CSSE. Phillips was involved in starting the weightlifting club on campus and was a captain of the robotics club. As if school and the extracurriculars weren’t enough, Phillips also operated a business outside of school teaching younger children how to ride horses at New Beginnings Farm.

As she transitions to college life, Phillips said it’ll be hard to cut the ties and take a step back from the horses.

“It’s emotional to tell those cute, little 7-year-olds they’re going to have a new instructor,” Phillips said.

Her principal said also adjusting to school without Phillips would be bittersweet. While letting go of a stellar student is difficult, Dixon said he believes she will be an asset to the N.C. State community.

“Finding out Dylan received this scholarship was a very proud father kind of moment for me,” Dixon said. “[N.C. State.] has afforded themselves such a great opportunity. They are getting such a driven and personable young lady at their university.”

Phillips has accepted the Park Scholarship and plans to major in business starting this fall. She said the change from CSSE to becoming a member of the Wolfpack will be guided by the lessons she learned from the animals who have been by her side throughout her life.

“One of the main things I have learned from the horses, is that you always find new ways to push forward,” she said.

Ben Rappaport can be reached at or @b_rappaport.


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