Jakub Sciora Is Always up for a Challenge
Jakub Sciora knew he wanted to attend NC State and study textiles long before he received his Centennial Scholarship, but the funding made his decision to join the Pack that much easier. The native of Mebane, N.C., was selected as part of the scholarship program’s Class of 2017 and chose to participate in an accelerated bachelor’s/master’s program in order to maximize his time on campus.
“[The Centennial Scholarship] really affirmed my decision to go to NC State, but it wasn’t like I could just sit back and relax,” Sciora said. “I’m a hard worker, and I enjoyed being able to work while I was in school.”
“Hard worker” is a bit of an understatement. With the financial worries of paying for his education removed, Sciora poured himself into his studies, graduating from the Wilson College of Textiles with a bachelor’s degree in textile engineering and a minor in materials science and engineering last spring. He is now working on his master’s in textile engineering, which he plans to complete in the spring of 2022.
Earning multiple degrees in such a short time frame might seem daunting to others, but for Sciora, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
His extraordinary journey all started with some rain-soaked camping trips.
Sciora traces his success in the Wilson College of Textiles to his time as a Cub Scout and then a Boy Scout. Camping was part of both programs, especially the latter, but the equipment the scouts used wasn’t always up to par.
“When you go outdoors, the gear you use makes a big difference,” he said. “After spending a few sleepless nights with a cold, wet sleeping bag, you figure out really quickly that you need to get the right gear for what you’re doing.”
With those soggy memories firmly in mind, Sciora soon found himself analyzing gear at various outdoor retailers and wondering what made some fabrics better at battling the elements than others. Before long, his interests in math and science, combined with his newfound love for textiles, led him to consider NC State.
“I would look at the gear and the clothes and the outfits that they have, and I just couldn’t help but touch everything because I had to feel and know what everything was made out of,” Sciora said. “What makes something waterproof, yet breathable, or lightweight yet strong — all of those things that encompass what textiles are, what they can be and how they can assist you in your sports and lifestyle.”
An NC State summer program he attended right before his final year of high school solidified his decision to apply to the university and eventually led him to a career path for his passion. The Summer Textile Exploration Program, or STEP, is a residential program that gives rising high school seniors a sneak peek at life on NC State’s campus by enabling them to live in a residence hall while working with Wilson College of Textiles professors in a project area of their interest. Project choices include apparel design, business/marketing, polymer chemistry, textile design and textile engineering, with Sciora opting for the latter.
“I had no idea what textile engineering was [before learning about STEP], but as soon as I read about it online, all it took was a paragraph — I knew this is exactly what I was meant to do,” he said. “It just combined all of my passions, and I never knew that could actually turn into a career.”
Another important component of STEP is that participants are taught how to apply to NC State and the Centennial Scholarship program. Instructors explained to Sciora that, having been part of STEP, he was already nominated for the scholarship; all he had to do was complete the application.
“I remember sitting after school,” Sciora said, “sitting in the auditorium, waiting for my bus, writing bunches of essays just for the Centennial Scholarship, because it meant that much to me.”
Kent Hester, now retired director of the Wilson College of Textiles’ Student and Career Services, drove to Mebane to personally tell Jakub he had received the scholarship during his high school’s senior award ceremony.
“When Mr. Hester got up on stage, he said, ‘Unbeknownst to anyone on campus, including the student himself, this student has been awarded the most prestigious scholarship within the Centennial Scholarship, which is a full academic scholarship,’” Sciora said. “And so, the first time I found out that I got my entire school paid for was when he announced it to everyone.
“It was just so much excitement and so, so much of a relief that I was going to be able to pay for my own schooling without causing additional financial strain for my mom,” Sciora added. “The entire auditorium erupted in applause in support of me. It was like a dream come true. I had just discovered what my passion was a year earlier; just found out that there was a career pathway for me at a school only 45 minutes down the road; and now I had a full academic scholarship to it.”
Sciora’s time at NC State has been nothing short of a highlight reel of what students can achieve when opportunity meets dedication. In addition to his studies, he has been involved with numerous clubs and organizations including the Textile Engineering Society, Cru, Catholic Campus Ministry, the Gymnastics Club and Girls Engineering Change. He attended athletics events, hung out with his friends and did everything else that makes for a normal college experience too.
He also took the opportunity to study abroad in Australia via the Centennial Scholarship. While planning for the trip, he reached out to a church in the town where he would be living to request a host family to live with for a few weeks. A local family graciously invited him into their home to experience what it was truly like to be Australian.
“Unbeknownst to me, the mother of the family was a high school textiles teacher,” Sciora said of his host family. “I said, ‘My two fellow students and I are studying for a textile engineering degree. Let’s see if we can get together and present to your class.’ We were able to put together a presentation for continuing education credit for the teachers.”
Not even a pandemic could keep him from staying busy. COVID-19 may have prevented Sciora from leaving his home for a while, but he refused to let it interfere with his workout regimen. The intrepid scholar created his own computer-aided design, or CAD, model in order to build a wooden weightlifting set. He then paired the improvised power rack with hand-poured concrete barbells and dumbbells.
Sciora also started a virtual mentorship program for NC State freshmen and sophomores during the pandemic, giving them a way to connect with each other while they couldn’t gather on campus.
Even though he didn’t need to pay for his tuition, he actually worked for the North Carolina Textile Foundation, the foundation that funded his Centennial Scholarship, while completing his bachelor’s degree in order to give back to those who had helped make his academic dreams a reality.
“They offered me a job to come work with them as a student worker on campus, and so, although I didn’t need the job, I took it because I wanted to assist the Textile Foundation in opening doors for future students like me,” Sciora said. “I could take a textile-focused job on campus, and engage with donors, faculty and alumni, while giving back to the college that had so generously given so much to me before I even graduated.”
That selflessness also led to him being selected as a student representative in one of his college’s most important events, part of the Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign.
“I was actually working for the Textile Foundation when we received the gift from Mr. Fred Wilson, the generous gift that named the college ‘the Wilson College of Textiles,’” Sciora said. “I was able to meet his family multiple times, meet him and get to know his story, but then an even more exciting moment: I was there for the actual revealing of the naming, and I was one of the people that stood up on the balcony and dropped the banner that said ‘Wilson College of Textiles.’”
Sciora credits STEP and the opportunities that followed in the Wilson College of Textiles with putting him on the path to success.
“Before studying at NC State, I didn’t know anything about textile engineering, and I surely didn’t know I was interested in it,” Sciora said. “Now, I have a job — a full-time job — following my passion. It’s the best thing that could have ever happened.”
That full-time job is a fitting one for a student so dedicated to hard work and innovation. Sciora will begin working for Hexcel Corporation upon his graduation from the master’s program in 2022. In this new role, he will help construct composite airplanes and helicopters using cutting-edge textile technology.
The job will consist of three phases in a three-year rotation: working in Pennsylvania to manufacture the aircraft from carbon fiber and fiberglass materials, then in Utah to prepare the parts themselves and finally in Texas to experience the initial weaving process. This tiered approach to learning the business is the perfect scenario for someone as eager to be productive and involved as Jakub Sciora.
“One thing I hope others gain from my story is to have a growth mindset and to never stop learning, even when it makes you feel uncomfortable,” Sciora said. “Discover and identify areas in your life that need improvement, and make a conscious effort to turn those weaknesses into strengths.
“I am extraordinarily thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given throughout my life to practice this philosophy,” Sciora added, “especially during my time at NC State University.”
This post was originally published in Giving News.