By Hope Baptiste
Sending your first-born off to college has to be one of the most exciting—and most nerve-wracking— times in parents’ lives. Carolina parents Shawna C. ’01 (J.D.) and Brian A. Lemon, of Morrisville, North Carolina, can attest to that.
To ease their transition to having a college student, learn more about the University and commiserate with other parents in their situation, the Lemons joined the Carolina Parents Council (the volunteer arm of the Carolina Parents Association).
Now, as Carolina Parents Council National Chairs, they’ve learned a thing or two during their daughter, Claudia’s, ’17 UNC career. “We initially joined the Carolina Parents Council as a way for us to get more connected with the institution that was getting our daughter prepared for the rest of her life,” Brian said. “Our involvement gave us a behind-the-curtain look at UNC from a leadership perspective and a platform to champion the University. We also found ourselves in Chapel Hill more often than we thought, so we could hopefully catch up with Claudia more.”
Even better, they said, was the opportunity to connect with the chancellor one-on-one, forge lasting relationships with incredible faculty and dedicated staff, and experience Carolina in a more personal context. “Everyone that we’ve met and worked with on campus, from Chancellor [Carol] Folt to Vice Chancellor [Winston] Crisp, among others, is phenomenal, and so passionate about their commitment to every student’s education,” Shawna said. “Most parents don’t get this kind of access to their student’s college environment; now we can share what we’ve learned with other parents.”
The Lemons have also made it a point to support the University philanthropically; and they’ve made gifts to the College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Law and the Chancellor’s Global Education Fund.
But their experience with the Carolina Parents Council introduced them to a grant program supported by the Carolina Parents Association that helps provide needed resources to UNC student organizations, offices and departments. The Lemons have made a significant commitment to create a quasi-endowment that will provide funding in perpetuity for the Parents Council grants.
“We learned over the years that there were quality programs that weren’t necessarily receiving the level of funding they needed to be successful,” Brian said. “We were able to personalize our giving to support those programs, especially since the Parent Council grant funding isn’t guaranteed. We want to ensure there is funding for these grants going forward.”
“Given the limited pool of resources, we feel strongly that the professors and programs who take it upon themselves to ask for funding further enrich both the educational and life experiences of our students,” Shawna said. “Because of the Parents Council, we have many opportunities to make those connections and are more aware of where these opportunities are. We’re thrilled to have that kind of impact here.”
And they will continue to make a difference even after Claudia graduates in May. While she begins the dental assistant program en route to dental school, the Lemons—as past national chairs—will continue to drive the funding of the endowment as well as work with Shawna’s undergraduate alma mater and their son’s college of choice to help them build their parents programs.
“We’re certainly going to take a break, but we’re not done yet,” they said. “That’s the reality.”