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Hope Gehle, a senior biology major at UNC-Chapel Hill, creates sidewalk art with the eighth grade student she has worked with since 2017 as a part of the SMART Mentoring program.

As Winter Commencement approaches, senior students find themselves preparing for a new chapter in their lives as college graduates. Among the hundreds of Carolina undergraduates who will receive their diplomas on Sunday, Dec. 16, Hope Gehle, a biology major from Charlotte, North Carolina, is one of the 14 who will graduate as Buckley Public Service Scholars (BPSS).

By Rowan Gallaher and Sarah Leck

The BPSS distinction goes beyond the blue and white cords that scholars wear around their necks on graduation day. Graduating as a service scholar means a student has obtained a GPA of 3.0 or higher, attended skills trainings and service-learning courses and performed more than 300 hours of public service during their time at Carolina.

For many graduates, including Gehle, it also means something deeper.

“My mission as a Buckley Public Service Scholar is to be a continuous and overflowing vessel of love,” Gehle said.

For Gehle, many of her service hours happened through her involvement with SMART Mentoring, a BPSS program that facilitates mentoring relationships with local middle-school students from low-income communities through its partnership with Volunteers for Youth. It was a perfect fit for Gehle, who knew she wanted to get involved with service even before she arrived at Carolina.

“As I watched my friends tutor and lead high schoolers through other organizations, I sought out opportunities to care holistically for another student,” she said. “SMART Mentoring was the perfect program.”

By May 2019, Gehle will have worked with her mentee from sixth to eighth grade. Executive Director of Volunteers for Youth Susan Worley noted that this consistency is the key to a successful mentoring relationship.

“Hope’s dedication over these last years has been so instrumental in her mentee’s life, who said she didn’t know who she would be without Hope as a mentor,” Worley said.

In addition to her mentoring responsibilities, Gehle also served as a co-chair for the organization. Gehle and her SMART peers worked to create a safe environment where mentees could share and verbally process life’s challenging situations, ranging from body image issues to “far-fetched scientific curiosities.”

Gehle’s experience with SMART Mentoring and BPSS has helped to cultivate her passion for service and inspire her to enter the medical field. Following graduation Gehle will work as a lab assistant in Chapel Hill and hopes to eventually enroll into the UNC School of Medicine.

“I hope to administer my gifts and talents for the entirety of my life— in my relationships and my career. There is always reason to serve and I hope that I would lead my neighbors to serve from the heart as well,” said Gehle.

Together, all 14 BPSS graduates have completed nearly 400 projects with more than 150 community partners. The Carolina Center for Public Service (CCPS) congratulates the BPSS December 2018 graduating class on their hard work and dedication as service scholars.

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