A conversation with CAP Student, Riley Hollars

Riley Hollars, a Watauga High School rising junior shares with us some recent, valuable accomplishments and opportunities helped made possible by College Access Partnerships grant programs. Riley is a student in Upward Bound and a YES- Appalachia scholar and will be attending the School for Ethics and Global Leadership (SEGL) in Washington DC next spring.


 I was accepted into the School for Ethics and Global Leadership (SEGL) for the spring semester of 2023 in Washington DC. Thanks to the help and cooperation of both, YES and SEGL, I am going to the semester school on full scholarship. With the assistance of Susan Saule and Rebeca Figueroa from YES, I was able to confidently complete the application process. I decided to apply for this opportunity after attending two Zoom interest meetings hosted by YES. I’ve attended many different types of YES Zoom meetings during Covid, but this one really sparked my interest. The middle school YES meetings created a familiarity for me, so I already felt comfortable attending the online ones too after Covid started. YES meetings always turn out to be interesting and beneficial so I am grateful to be a member of YES and to be exposed to opportunities such as SEGL.

I also recently competed in the Scholar’s Bowl competition in Atlanta, GA. Since the Appalachian Upward Bound team won the NC state competition, we were able to go to Atlanta for 3 days. I was on the second place team from the state competition, but us and the first place Appalachian Upward Bound team combined to go to Atlanta. I first decided to compete after Aaron Gersonde told me about it at one of our weekly meetings. Upward Bound has weekly meetings to each high school for all accepted students and it is a time to share information or receive any help.

What are you looking forward to in this next step and/or what was the highlight of this experience?

Although the Scholar’s Bowl competition was fun and I loved being able to represent my state in an academic setting, my favorite part of the experience was just to be able to go to Atlanta and do fun activities with my friends. Walking around the city and getting to do things such as going to the aquarium and riding a Ferris wheel made the whole trip unforgettable.

Since SEGL is intended to teach leadership and ethics, I am extremely excited about getting to work with actual world problems and learning how to address them. I’m also looking forward to living and going to school in Washington DC for 4 months. I can’t wait for the whole experience to begin.

How has your family supported you and/or how have you impacted your family through your own educational journey?

Throughout my whole life, my mom has been extensively supportive and encouraging to my educational journey. She always wants me to take any opportunity that is available to me. Even though she doesn’t want me to be so far away from her for 4 months, she has supported me through every step of applying and being accepted into the School for Ethics and Global Leadership.

 What advice would you give to any 7th grader?

I think it’s very important to consider every opportunity that is available to you. If you want to do something, then do it. If you need help, then ask for it. Don’t let things hold you back or prevent you from doing something that could enrich or change your life. Being a 7th grader gives you the chance to explore the things you love and set yourself up for a wonderful and successful future! 

How would you encourage your peers to take advantage of different educational opportunities available to them?

A lot of people are scared of the idea of new opportunities, especially educational ones. While a new situation and environment might be intimidating, if there is something you are interested in or want to do, then go for it. New experiences are what contribute to a person’s learning enrichment and life. I would encourage everybody to step out of their comfort zones and try new things because that is how you learn and grow as a person.

CAP Student, Riley Hollars
Published: May 31, 2022 12:00am