By Sarah Stone

The members of the 2025 Class of Centennial Scholars hail from up and down the east coast. They plan to study everything from fashion and textile design to textile engineering. Despite these differences, they do share a drive to become industry leaders and a passion for textiles. 

Each of the eight scholars will receive between $15,000 and $22,000 in scholarships each of their four years at Wilson College, thanks to the North Carolina Textile Foundation (NCTF). Each scholar is also given $7,500 to help extend their education outside of the classroom. These funds can go towards study abroad, leadership programs or professional development opportunities. 

The scholarship recipients shared more about what drew them to a degree in textiles and their plans for their time at NC State.

Amanda Cease

Little Scholarship Recipient
Henderson, NC
Fashion and Textile Design

Amanda Cease first learned about the Wilson College of Textiles during a field trip in seventh grade. 

“I appreciated the close-knit community of students that it offered, I knew that it would provide many opportunities and experiences that would prepare me for a career in the textiles industry and I always knew that I wanted to go to NC State,” Cease says. 

After attending STEP, the Little Scholarship recipient says Wilson College already feels like home.

What interested you in pursuing your major and what appeals to you most about your major?

Initially, I was mostly interested in polymer and color chemistry, but during the 2020 Virtual STEP I spent the week in the textile design group and immediately shifted my interest. I have always loved art, and the creative aspect of the fashion and textile design major was very appealing to me. In this major I will be able to constantly see work being done from the beginning to the end. I can watch a blank piece of fabric be transformed into a piece of art that can light up a room. 

What is a unique trait that you have that you believe will benefit you the most while in college? 

I am an extremely well-rounded person, which means that I am someone who is extroverted and outgoing. I try to get involved in a little bit of everything while managing my time and remaining primarily focused on academic success. In high school, I was involved in community service, religious groups, arts, athletics and academic honor societies. I plan to continue involvement in all of these things while at college so I can meet different people and make connections. 

What does it mean to be a recipient of a Centennial Scholarship?

Being a Centennial Scholarship recipient means representing the university as an academically successful student who is devoted to creating a better future for the textile industry and for the world. It is proof that recipients are supported as they work to receive their degrees. A recipient of a Centennial Scholarship is hard-working, focused, passionate and involved. 

Tessa Dionne

Close Scholarship Recipient
Raleigh, NC
Fashion and Textile Design

Wilson College will not be Tessa Dionne’s introduction to the textile industry. The Close Scholarship winner took an apparel course all four years of high school. In fact, the teacher of the class generated her interest in NC State. 

She had flyers all around her room for Wilson College’s Summer Textile Exploration Program (STEP) last year before COVID hit,” Dionne says. “So I read up on it and decided to apply!”

During her time at NC State, Dionne plans to become involved in leadership and volunteering organizations. 

Why did you decide to enroll at NC State University’s Wilson College of Textiles?

After attending STEP this past summer and being in apparel class for the last four years, I knew I definitely wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry. I loved being able to tour the campus and hear about all the amazing opportunities that come with the design program, like the study abroad and the studio tech available, so once I was admitted there was no way I could pass up such an amazing and unique experience!

What is a unique trait that you have that you believe will benefit you the most while in college? 

I think I tend to be a very curious student, so I feel like this will benefit me during my time at Wilson College. I am always wanting to learn more, see new perspectives and find the deeper meaning of things, so I think my curiosity will benefit me as a design student since it will allow me to explore new ideas and venture out of my comfort zone to gain new experiences.

What does it mean to be a recipient of a Centennial Scholarship?

To be one of the recipients of a Centennial Scholarship is one of the greatest honors I could ever receive, and it shows me my hard work and dedication has paid off. I always tried to challenge myself and take part in new experiences whenever I could, so receiving this scholarship reassures me that I’m on the right path and my efforts didn’t go unnoticed!

Elizabeth Edwards

Morris Scholarship Recipient
Clayton, NC
Fashion and Textile Management

Before her first day of classes even begins, Elizabeth Edwards has already determined specific goals for her involvement on campus, from joining the Fashion Group to becoming a student ambassador. The Morris Scholarship recipient plans to leave a legacy of leadership at Wilson College. She credits this natural leadership and drive to her grandmother. 

How did you first learn about the Wilson College of Textiles? 

I first heard about NC State’s textile programs over the summer when I came across a video of a student sharing her experiences at Wilson College and what she had learned from her major. It was an immediate spark of passion. I researched YouTube videos, blogs and the NC State website, completely immersing myself in the world of textiles. Attending STEP last summer confirmed my desire to pursue textiles as a major as I learned more about the industry.

What do you hope to do after graduation? 

After graduation I see myself establishing a position within a company that would allow me to gain real hands on experience to establish my own entrepreneurial venture, my own fashion line or company dedicated to being sustainable. I aspire to make a more sustainable and ethical industry that will assist the environment and create solutions to textile byproducts. I want to be among the leaders of environmentally friendly changes in the fashion industry.

What does it mean to be a recipient of a Centennial Scholarship?

Being a recipient of a Centennial Scholarship has given me access to utilize the resources and connections that have now been made available to me to fully activate my potential, giving me a head start in my career. Having the North Carolina Textile Foundation believe in me and invest in my future through this scholarship gives me confidence that I have genuine, achievable plans for my career and ultimately will be able to give back to the college. 

Teresa Fiorito

ITT-Roger Milliken Scholarship Recipient
Chapel Hill, NC
Textile Engineering

Teresa Fiorito has wanted to study at the Wilson College of Textiles since her first year of high school, when a friend suggested she attend the annual Open House. Taking part in STEP further solidified her decision. 

“There’s no better place for me to be innovative and have a positive impact on the world,” Fiorito says. 

In her time at NC State, the ITT-Roger Milliken Scholarship recipient plans to explore opportunities in research, running and volunteer work. 

What interested you in pursuing your major and what appeals to you most about your major? 

I’ve always had a strong interest in math and science. I love the logic they require and the curiosity they spark. I also have a passion for art and being creative. Whether I’m working on paintings in my free time or making my school assignments as aesthetically pleasing as possible, I love the opportunity to be imaginative and resourceful.

After attending STEP in July of 2020, I realized the Wilson College of Textiles would provide so many wonderful opportunities for me to combine my desire to be creative and innovative with my interests in math and science. The labs that I participated in during STEP opened my eyes to how many different factors go into creating complex textiles, especially ones that have to fulfill specific performance requirements. 

Majoring in textile engineering, which will allow me to weave together design and function, is the perfect way to achieve my goals.

What do you hope to do after graduation? 

After obtaining my degree in textile engineering, I hope to use my skills to design the best performance textiles possible. I’m especially interested in applying my design knowledge and skills to the running community, which has been a huge part of my life. As an athlete who is dedicated to physical fitness and not deterred by weather, I want to design and produce textiles that will optimize existing solutions and possibly open doors to create new products for any adventure. 

Additionally, I want the textiles I create to be sustainable, cost effective and have a circular life cycle. This will allow the products to be easily recycled into new and equally effective clothing, which is a goal I have for the textile industry.

What does it mean to be a recipient of a Centennial Scholarship?

Receiving the ITT-Roger Milliken Centennial Scholarship is a great honor that gives me confidence that I can deal with any challenges that I encounter and inspires me to work even harder. Along with the significant financial burden it relieves, I appreciate that this scholarship requires active participation in service projects, allows me to study abroad, which will enhance my academic and personal skills through exposure to new cultures and perspectives, and gives me the opportunity to strengthen my leadership and professional skills further. With the support and guidance of this scholarship community throughout my college career I look forward to growing as a student and person.

Hannah Kirk

American Enka Scholarship Recipient
Rising Sun, MD
Textile Technology

Hannah Kirk first learned about the Wilson College of Textiles through a friend, but her experience at STEP solidified her decision to apply. While attending NC State, the American Enka Scholarship recipient will pursue research and service opportunities. 

Why did you decide to enroll at NC State University’s Wilson College of Textiles?

On my tour of Wilson College of Textiles, I was able to see the amazing facility and hear about everything the school had to offer. Additionally, attending STEP helped me see the possibilities in the textile industry. The other schools I toured were unable to measure up when compared to NC State. What sealed the deal for me was that NC State is a land-grant university. This was important to me, since I come from an agricultural background.

What interested you in pursuing your major and what appeals to you most about your major? 

I have enjoyed all things relating to fabrics and yarns since I was young and began sewing when I was four. I have also raised sheep for several years, and while I have not had the chance to process any of my fleeces it is on my bucket list. Participating in the 4-H fashion review helped develop my interest in textiles. My 4-H leader Ms. Carla suggested that I look into careers in the textile industry. At first, I was interested in fashion design. That interest evolved into textile technology as I learned more. I have chosen to pursue a degree in textile technology because of my interest in how fabrics function and what impacts the final product. 

What does it mean to be a recipient of a Centennial Scholarship?

Being a recipient of a Centennial Scholarship makes my dream of a career in the textile industry more accessible. This means that I can focus on my studies and take full advantage of my college experience. I am also looking forward to joining a community of dedicated scholars and making connections within the textile industry. I am honored to be a Centennial Scholar.

Cheyenne Otero

Copeland Scholarship Recipient
Garner, NC
Fashion and Textile Management

Family ties led Cheyenne Otero to research Wilson College. However, Otero still plans to chart her own path. The Copeland Scholarship recipient will study fashion and textile management while her sister, Kayleena, is majoring in polymer and color chemistry

What interested you in pursuing your major and what appeals to you most about your major? 

I have always had a love for fashion and recently found a new interest in business. Fashion and textile management (FTM) allows me to combine the best of both worlds! When asked what attracts me the most to FTM, I say everything! The entire world of textiles is extremely fascinating to me, and I am so excited to dive in and further my knowledge!

What do you hope to do after graduation? 

After graduation I hope to move to New York and get a job in brand management and marketing. I plan on working for a brand that is unique, sustainable and ethical – a brand I truly believe in. I also hope to one day start a non-profit that donates clothes to people who have suffered from house fires and other natural disasters. 

What does it mean to be a recipient of a Centennial Scholarship?

To be a recipient of a Centennial Scholarship means everything to me. It means a sense of financial security, focusing on my education and not my debt. It means all of my hard work and dedication in high school is being recognized and appreciated. A Centennial Scholarship to me means that someone believes in me enough that they would invest their time and money in me so that I can thrive in the future. The opportunities, resources and community that are provided through the Centennial Scholarship still amaze me, and I am so entirely grateful for this opportunity. 

Grace Ripley

Jacques Weber Scholarship Recipient
Morganton, NC
Fashion and Textile Management

Grace Ripley will walk through the doors of Wilson College for the first time with experience in the textile industry already under her belt. The Jacques Weber Scholarship recipient designed a clothing line with a boutique in her hometown during the summer before her senior year of high school. 

This experience allowed me to connect with various community members, work alongside a local seamstress and understand the economics and marketing of manufacturing my own line and in turn selling it,” Ripley says. 

She plans to channel her education into a career as a buyer or sourcer improving sustainability in the industry. 

Why did you decide to enroll at NC State University’s Wilson College of Textiles?

After I attended STEP, I knew that NC State, and specifically the Wilson College of Textiles, was the perfect place to help me grow academically and develop a career in the textile industry. The community feel of the students, professors and faculty members was amazing. I knew that they all had my best interest at heart and wanted to see me succeed. I am so excited to be a part of the Wolfpack family and already feel so welcomed by the members of Wilson College.

What interested you in pursuing your major and what appeals to you most about your major? 

I have always had a passionate interest in fashion. For as long as I can remember, I have constantly expressed myself through putting outfits together that resembled me and using my creative side to design clothes. I have also developed a strong interest in the business world and am fascinated about the management and development side of the textile industry. I realized that I could make a career and have an amazing education based off of my passions. After researching the various options available at the Wilson College of Textiles, I knew that fashion and textile management would combine my love for design along with my interest in business and product development. 

What does it mean to be a recipient of a Centennial Scholarship?

Receiving a Centennial Scholarship has been a goal of mine since my sophomore year of high school. It is something that I have worked very hard to achieve, and I couldn’t be more grateful to be a recipient of the scholarship and for the opportunities that lie ahead. The financial burden that has been lifted from my family’s and my shoulders is tremendous and we can’t thank the Wilson College of Textiles enough as well as the North Carolina Textile Foundation. I can’t wait to represent the Wilson College of Textiles and NC State over the next four years as a Centennial Scholar!

Gentry Rogers

Brawley Scholarship Recipient
Apex, NC
Fashion and Textile Management

Brawley Scholarship winner Gentry Rogers immersed herself in one Wilson College’s largest events before even applying to NC State. The Triangle native has modeled for Threads fashion lines created by both her cousin and neighbor. That experience inspired her to attend STEP, where she began seeing herself in the textile industry. 

“During my week at STEP, I was able to work on a collaborative project with a group and understand what a fashion and textile management class project might look like,” Rogers says. “STEP also showed me that the Wilson College of Textiles is a small college within the University that will allow me to build close relationships with professors and peers.” 

For Rogers, it’s important to use her skills to make a positive impact. She wants to join the Greater Good Textile Group this fall. 

What interested you in pursuing your major and what appeals to you most about your major? 

I plan on majoring in fashion and textile management with a concentration in brand management and marketing. This major encompasses my many interests. Participating in Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) throughout high school has given me experience in real world situations, specifically marketing and hospitality management. This prompted my interest in a marketing/management career. Additionally, I have taken two apparel classes which have strengthened my enjoyment of fashion and the inner workings of the industry. After modeling in my cousin’s Threads fashion show, I was encouraged to participate in Wilson College’s Summer Textile Exploration Program with a concentration in business. STEP gave me the opportunity to create a clothing sub-brand for teenagers, a project replicated from the actual major’s curriculum, and I absolutely loved it. 

What is a unique trait that you have that you believe will benefit you the most while in college? 

One of my unique traits is that I am great at collaboration and working with others. Whether it is my work, school or my family commitments, collaboration is an essential part of my daily life. I have had many opportunities to practice collaboration, so I believe that I will be fully prepared to work sufficiently with others in college. I know I will be surrounded by diverse groups of people and ideas, so collaborating will be a very important part of my college career. 

What does it mean to be a recipient of a Centennial Scholarship?

Being a recipient of the Centennial Scholarship means that my hard work throughout high school has been recognized. I will be able to pursue my academic goals at the number one textile program in the world while giving my family financial freedom when sending my younger brother to college. It will allow me to take part in enrichment activities such as studying abroad that I might not have been able to do before.

Naomi Southerland

Richard Gilbert Scholarship Recipient
Plainfield, NJ
Textile Engineering

An education at the Wilson College of Textiles allows Naomi Southerland to follow in the footsteps of her role models. 

“In high school, I researched leading athletic apparel companies. There are not many women in the field of textile engineering, let alone Black women,” Southerland says. “However, I did discover that the top female engineers working for Nike specializing in textiles were Wilson College of Textiles graduates.”

Although the Richard Gilbert Scholarship recipient hasn’t stepped inside a college classroom yet, she already has a career path in mind, with the ultimate goal of creating swimwear and gymnastics lines for a top athletic company. 

Why did you decide to enroll at NC State University’s Wilson College of Textiles?

I decided to enroll at NC State University’s Wilson College of Textiles because of its track record of educating the top textile engineering students in the world. My decision to enroll was actually a pretty easy one to make after doing a little research. Graduates from NC State are employed and conducting research for some of the top athletic brands in the country.

What interested you in pursuing your major and what appeals to you most about your major? 

My plan is to pursue a degree in textile engineering with a concentration in product engineering because I have always been interested in the creation and design of different materials. My interest in textile engineering was inspired because I am a competitive gymnast. I have always been fascinated by the performance of my athletic gear, especially when it came time to compete.  

What does it mean to be a recipient of a Centennial Scholarship?

I grew up with parents that value education and have taught me to do the same. I am humbled and forever grateful for this opportunity. I realize that without donors like you willing to support students like me, I would be unable to pursue my dreams. Thank you personally for your generosity. My lifelong dream of attending college and pursuing a textile engineering degree is moving forward because of you. 

Are you interested in becoming a Centennial Scholar? 

To be eligible for a scholarship at the Wilson College of Textiles, you must apply to NC State by the early admission deadline. For more information about the scholarship program, click here.