SILER CITY — No presumir.
That’s what Jolitzy Fernandez Arzate’s dad reminded her every day before sending her off to school. The Spanish phrase directly translates to don’t brag or show off, but to Jolitzy it means much more than that.
“No presumir” is a life motto to remind Jolitzy of her humble beginnings. A way of remembering the opportunities she’s been afforded in her 17 years of life, and the importance of capitalizing on those opportunities.
The philosophy certainly paid off as she was recently awarded the Richard and Susan Allison Assured Admit Scholarship. The merit-based scholarship was created to attract top North Carolina students of exceptional scholastic aptitude, strength of character and demonstrated leadership potential to both UNC-Chapel Hill and Kenan-Flagler Business School.
The scholarship is worth $25,000 per year for four years and assures early admittance to the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill. Jolitzy will begin her first year at UNC in the fall after graduating from Jordan-Matthews High School.
Congratulations, Jolitzy! pic.twitter.com/35rEudsc7R— Jordan-Matthews HS (@JMHSJets) March 6, 2023
Receiving the scholarship required an interview along with an application review process. Jolitzy said the interview was far from ordinary.
“It was supposed to last one hour, but our conversation lasted an hour and 30 minutes,” she said. “And they were asking me non-traditional questions like ‘What makes you cry?’ or ‘Who’s your best friend?’”
A week later, she got the call that she was awarded the honor. She’ll be the first person in her family to attend college.
Originally, UNC wasn’t the top choice for Jolitzy. She had her eyes set on becoming a Mountaineer at Appalachian State. But after seeing the scholarship offers and consulting with mentors, she decided to don the Carolina blue.
When asked what made her a strong applicant, it was difficult for the humble Jolitzy to boast about herself. She said, however, she’s always been a strong team player — something that would serve her well in the business world.
“Sometimes I know that somebody else has better ideas,” she said. “Or they can be a better leader than me. So I step aside.”
Jolitzy also received the Dell Scholarship, a $20,000 award to be used to help with financial challenges for students. It’s given to students who qualify for Pell Grants in the first year of college and demonstrate a need for financial assistance. She was one of six to receive the award from J-M.
Outside of the classroom, Jolitzy is involved in JMArts, where she’s fresh off her role of Alice in Wonderland in “Shrek The Musical.” She also volunteers with Siler City Community Meal youth committee, which provides monthly free meals to local residents, DECA, Leo Club and is a member of the varsity girls tennis and swim teams. When she isn’t doing all those things she also works as a temporary receptionist at H&R Block.
The chaotic and busy schedule Jolitzy takes on is also part of the “no presumir” attitude — taking advantage of all that’s available to her. It’s also a way of embracing her love of Siler City.
“There’s relationships that are everywhere,” she said. “There’s a real sense of community where everyone knows you.”
Going from a close-knit rural town to a campus of more than 30,000 students is something Jolitzy believes will be a challenge in her first year in Chapel Hill. But she says she’ll take the lessons she learned in Chatham County with her throughout her life: be open-minded, don’t assume people’s circumstances and find common core values.
Many of those lessons were also learned from the stories her father would tell her about growing up in Mexico City. At just 6 years old he was selling candy in the streets, or doing other odd jobs to help make ends meet for his family. Coming to the U.S. meant many of those socioeconomic challenges weren’t as steep for his children.
“I’m very fortunate that things are easier for me than they were for him growing up,” Jolitzy said.
Those fortunes, however, also come with pressure to succeed. As a first-generation college student and the daughter of immigrants, Jolitzy said there’s often an internal voice telling her to push herself to repay her parents for the sacrifices they once made on her behalf.
“One of the reasons I want to go to college is so that I can make enough money to buy a house for [my parents],” she said. “Going to college is my experience, but it’s also shared with them. It’s not only me graduating college, it’ll be them, too.”
Jolitzy said she hopes to share all her accomplishments with her family because she feels like they gave her everything.
As a direct admit into the business school, Jolitzy said she hopes to pursue a career in international business. Her inspiration to enter business came from her older sister, Jhoana, who operates Brothers Tire Shop in Siler City. Seeing her sister make her own schedule and interact with customers made Jolitzy realize the impact business could have.
The international side of her goals comes from a desire to travel and see the world. Aside from one trip to Mexico in 2015, Jolitzy has rarely traveled outside the county.
“I want to learn about everywhere,” she said. “I really want to get out there and see beyond North Carolina.”
While many of Jolitzy’s aspirations may seem distant, she has confidence they’re possible because of the lessons she learned from the community, and her family.
“You don’t have to fit into the stereotypes set for you,” she said. “You can grow beyond that and set your own path.”