Two Leesville seniors earn prestigious Park Scholarship

Dante Tomaino (left) and Daryn Wilkerson (right) are both recipients of the prestigious Park Scholarship from North Carolina State University. The two went through an extensive application process to receive this honor. (Photo used by permission of Mariana Herrera Caro)

On March 1, Dante Tomaino and Daryn Wilkerson, both seniors at Leesville, each received a phone call informing them that they had won the distinguished Park Scholarship. The Park Scholarship is a scholarship to North Carolina State University with a value of $110,000 for in-state students that covers tuition and fees and room and board.

To earn this honor, Tomaino and Wilkerson participated in a lengthy application process that involved multiple essays and several interviews, and they demonstrated scholarship, leadership, service, and character.

In total, about 40 students win the Park Scholarship every year. Along with money to cover the costs of attending NC State, winners of the scholarship receive grants for research, mentorship from a faculty member, a specialized leadership program just for Park Scholars, and more.

Both Tomaino and Wilkerson applied for the Park Scholarship in the hopes of easing the burden of college tuition. For Tomaino, who plans to major in biochemistry and later become a doctor, applying for the Park Scholarship at the beginning of his senior year did not carry any special significance.

“Even smaller scholarships here and there I applied to, so [the Park Scholarship] was just another scholarship to me,” said Tomaino. “I was applying to every scholarship that I could, and it just happened to be a scholarship I could apply for.”

Tomaino noted that the application process lasted a long time. It began in October and continued until March. In January, Tomaino and Wilkerson learned that they were semifinalists, and in January, after their semifinalist interviews, they received notification that they were finalists. On February 22 and 23, they participated in a series of interviews and activities at NC State. They found out that they had won the scholarship on March 1.

Though it was stressful at times, Wilkerson did manage to have some fun during the grueling process.

“You also have to do a group assignment [at the finalist weekend] where they give you a problem or situation, and you have to figure out how you’re going to deal with it,” Wilkerson said. “It basically shows how well do you work with others.…It was actually really fun.”

When they learned that they had won the Park Scholarship, Tomaino and Wilkerson were in shock. Now that he has had time to process this distinction, Tomaino is anticipating not working a job in college.

“I’m looking forward to being able to spend my time on service projects as opposed to spending my time working. If I hadn’t gotten the Park, I would’ve had to work over a dozen hours a week, maybe a couple dozen hours a week, to pay for college,” said Tomaino. “Now that I don’t have to worry about the money, it frees up so, so much of my time to go out and study more, to do more service projects.”

Wilkerson, on the other hand, is looking forward to the networking opportunities that this scholarship will present. At NC State, she will major in fashion and textile design with a concentration in textile design and a minor in textile technology, and she hopes that her status as a Park Scholar will help her achieve her goals of owning a fashion house and a charity.

“It’s really nice to get the connections because I already am going to be assigned with faculty mentors that will help me out with research and maybe creating a charity or a business,” said Wilkerson. “It will help kick-start some of the things people might wait until 30 to be able to do.”

As selection for the Park Scholarship’s Class of 2023 draws to a close, focus shifts to the next class of Park Scholars. The application process for the Class of 2024 will begin next fall when interested seniors apply to NC State in the Early Action round of admissions. Anyone wishing to learn more about this scholarship program can visit the Park Scholarship’s website.

Good luck to Leesville’s Park Scholars, Dante Tomaino and Daryn Wilkerson, as they begin new adventures at NC State University in fall 2019.



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