She'll be the first in her family to attend college

A Garinger High senior, profiled in The Ledger last year, is pursuing her dreams of becoming a nurse — thanks to the generosity of a reader.

Today’s Charlotte Ledger is sponsored by Sinclair Public Affairs:

After a year of challenges and blessings, Anisha Sunuwar makes the tough decision to leave home for college

Anisha Sunuwar will walk across the stage of Bojangles Coliseum as she graduates from Garinger High School on June 3. She’ll be the first in her family to attend college.

by Cristina Bolling

It’s graduation season, so we wanted to update you about a special high school senior we told you about last year who captured the hearts of the Ledger community: She’s heading to college this fall with financial support from our generous readers.

Anisha Sunuwar graduates June 3 from Garinger High School, which is one of the highest poverty high schools in Charlotte. It’s been an enormously challenging year for both her and her school.

Anisha and her brother came down with Covid over the summer, and her mom has been suffering with a severe chronic illness since the fall that’s caused her to be in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals.

Anisha, an honors student who immigrated from Nepal with her family when she was 10, wanted to go back to in-person school this spring when classrooms reopened. But as her mom’s caretaker and translator, she worried her mom needed her too much to be away from home all day.

Without in-person school this year, she struggled to stay motivated. In the fall, while juggling remote school and working part-time to support her family, she was on the verge of dropping out.

But she was driven by two things: A visit to the grim poultry plant where her mom worked before getting sick, and seeing how nurses have cared for her mom. She set a goal for herself: to graduate from Garinger, go to college and become a nurse.

A generous local businessman read about Anisha in The Ledger last December and made a life-changing offer to pay for four years of college. Other readers also reached out with financial help for her family, powerful words of encouragement and an invitation to participate in the MeckEd Career Pathways program.

Anisha had dreamed about going to school for nursing and had only one school in mind because she’d been told she’d have the best chance of affording it — N.C. A&T University.

Her donor encouraged her to expand her horizons, and she applied to and was accepted at UNC Greensboro, which has a strong nursing program. She accepted their offer and will be the first in her family to go to college.

It wasn’t an easy decision.

Anisha worries that her family needs her at home. But that, she says, is precisely why she feels she needs to move 2 hours away.

For first-generation college students, and especially those from countries and cultures that don’t share the American tradition of 18-year-olds leaving home to study at a university, the decision to go away to college can be lonely and fraught.

“She’s worried about me being alone, being on my own,” Anisha says of her mom. “She says how I should take care of her. She wants me to stay home and go to college.”

She does, however, know her mom will be OK without her. Her sister, who is older, can help her mom with what she needs.

Anisha says she considered going to UNC Charlotte, where she was also accepted, but she said she worried the distractions of home would prevent her from graduating — which in the long run, she knows, is the best way for her to help her family.

“I know if I stay here, my family is going to depend on me, and I won’t be focused on school.”

Anisha has had the strong support this year of her mentors, her Charlotte Eagle soccer coaches Beka Severs and Bella Miller, who took her to visit UNC Greensboro over Thanksgiving. Anisha walked around campus and imagined what it would be like to study there.

“I could see myself attending 4 years and getting my bachelor’s degree. I would have a good future, considering my past,” she said.

Anisha says she had butterflies in her stomach on the winter day when she clicked on the email from UNC Greensboro and read the magic word: “Accepted.”

It’s easy to understand why UNC Greensboro wants her.

Students like Anisha know what it means to study and work hard, to yearn for possibilities, and they understand that the type of success that moves families and communities forward often comes with sacrifice and heartache.

She shared her college essay with us, and in closing, we share a portion with you:

Growing up in a refugee family from Nepal, my family was not able to go to university due to having to provide for our family by working. The dream to be a nurse would allow me to take care of my family. It would also allow me to travel and to help people who are in poverty with no access to healthcare.

Having such an education would also allow me to break the cycle for my family. I would be able to set an example to the Nepalese children in my community. My success in college could be the catalyst for others to step into their dreams; that even though we had to start from the bottom, we can still make something of our lives.

Many of the Nepalese I have come in contact with have dropped out of school and gone straight to a factory or warehouse to work alongside their parents. A dream much greater than just being a nurse, is to be able to be an example for my community.

If you have well wishes or words of encouragement for Anisha, email us and we’ll pass them along to her.

Related Ledger articles:

Today’s supporting sponsor is Soni Brendle:

This week in Charlotte: City and county budgets; sharp words and compromises on 2040 Plan; molestation verdict against CMS and a farewell to plastic yard-waste bags

On Saturdays, The Ledger sifts through the local news of the week and links to the top articles — even if they appeared somewhere else. We’ll help you get caught up. That’s what Saturdays are for.


  • Mayor, city council pay raises: Next year’s proposed Charlotte city budget contains hefty pay raises for Mayor Vi Lyles and city council members — raises that were not discussed during a budget presentation or released in detail until the media received a copy of the 422-page budget book after the city manager’s presentation and media briefing this week. Under the proposed budget, Lyles’ total compensation would rise 30% and city council members’ total compensation would grow by 50%. (Observer)

  • Unloading on 2040 Plan: (Axios Charlotte) Speaking to a group of Young Republicans last week, city council member Ed Driggs called the city’s proposed 2040 Comprehensive Plan “basically an attempt at a socialist takeover of the city of Charlotte,” and that opponents had been able to delay it because “smart people can outmaneuver dumb people.” Driggs, a Republican who represents part of south Charlotte, later said he was unaware a reporter, Axios’ Michael Graff, was in the room and that his comments were merely “putting on a show” for the audience. Democrats outnumber Republicans 9-2 on the council. Driggs apologized at Monday’s council meeting.

  • Budget time: Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte each proposed 2021-22 budgets this week:

    • County: The county proposed a $1.99B budget for 2022 includes more than $10M in new investments in education, arts programming and county staffing designed to address disparities among Black and brown county residents. (Observer)

    • City: The city of Charlotte’s proposed budget for next year contains no tax increase but hikes in water, sewer and stormwater fees. The budget would give a 14.5% raise to the lowest-paid city workers, provide more money for the arts and allow for construction of the final two segments of the Cross Charlotte Trail in northeast Charlotte. (WFAE)


  • Sexual assault lawsuit verdict: (QCity Metro) A federal jury ordered Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to pay $7.5M to a former student at West Charlotte High School who said he was molested by the school’s band director in 2011. CMS lawyers had argued that the district should not be liable for “every accident, unfortunate incident or even bad actors,” but lawyers for the student said CMS knew of the band director’s history of inappropriate behavior. CMS said it will appeal.

  • County pressures CMS on equity: (WFAE) County manager Deno Diorio is proposing withholding $56M from the budget of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools until the district presents a plan to close racial and ethnic achievement gaps. She said the gaps are “unacceptable” and that “this is a way to tie funding to accountability.” The $56M would be about 11% of what the county gives to CMS.

Local news

  • Plastic yard-waste bags outlawed: (Axios Charlotte) Starting July 5, Charlotte residents will no longer be permitted to put yard waste in plastic bags — a popular practice. For environmental and efficiency reasons, the city says residents will need to use paper bags or reusable containers.

  • Delay on I-485 toll lanes: (Observer) New toll lanes under construction on I-485 between I-77 and Independence Boulevard appear to be delayed by up to two years, until 2024. The new lanes were earlier expected to be open by late 2022. Members of the N.C. Turnpike Authority said they want to know why the contractor, Blythe Construction Inc., has fallen behind on the project.


  • Morris Costumes sells web business: (Ledger) Morris Costumes, the family-owned retailer that started in a Charlotte basement and became the largest costume distributor in the world, has sold the e-commerce portion of its business to Oriental Trading. Oriental Trading’s parent company is Berkshire Hathaway, whose CEO is billionaire and investing legend Warren Buffett. The Morris Costumes Monroe Road retail store and the Halloween Express pop-up stores that they run will continue to be owned by the Morris family.

  • 2040 plan changes (Ledger): The city’s planning department is suggesting changes to the 2040 Comprehensive Plan to address concerns over building duplexes and triplexes in single-family neighborhoods, as well as objections by developers to some of the provisions. The City Council will discuss the plan at Monday’s council meeting. Friday’s Ledger also examined the issue of Community Benefit Agreements, one of the contentious provisions.

  • Doughnut IPO: (Restaurant Business) Krispy Kreme said Tuesday that it has filed paperwork for an initial public offering (IPO), which would make it only the second restaurant chain to go public since 2015. The Winston-Salem-based doughnut-maker went public in 2000 but later suffered through an accounting scandal and overly aggressive expansion and was taken private again in 2016.


  • Charlotte’s football champions: Charlotte Catholic won its fourth straight state football championship on Friday night, beating Havelock 14-7 in Raleigh. In the state’s largest division, Vance plays for the state championship today at 5 p.m. against Rolesville.

Good reads

  • Understanding YouTube’s MrBeast: (New York Times) The most popular star on YouTube is a 22-year-old from Greenville, N.C., who goes by the name MrBeast — and he’s expanding his empire in different businesses. His experience, The New York Times writes, “may serve as a blueprint for the next generation of creators and influencers, who now number more than 50 million around the world and have become a formidable business force.”

  • North Carolina’s nursing pioneers: (Our State) Writing for Our State magazine, Elizabeth Leland shares the stories of 11 nurses from the 19th and 20th centuries who “laid the foundation for today’s health-care heroes.”

Ledger originals

  • Back to the office: (Friday 🔒) Charlotte employers are making plans to get workers back to the office — in some cases, as early as June or July. We looked into some of the most common questions workers and bosses have about how that will work, including masks, vaccinations, office attire, remote work schedules and what happens if employees prefer to stay at home.

  • Vaccination rates: (Friday 🔒) The number of vaccines administered in Mecklenburg County fell to its lowest level last week since mid-March, even though appointments are widely available.

  • Eastside eyesore to get makeover: (Monday) It looks as though work is about to start renovating and expanding the Varnadore Building along Independence Boulevard near Albemarle Road. Developers have received building permits for the run-down 7-story building, which has graffiti and broken windows, and plans are circulating to add shops and a parking deck.

  • Sleepy Poet to relocate: (Wednesday 🔒) The Sleepy Poet Antique Mall is moving to a new location on South Boulevard, and its owner reminisced about local celebrities who have visited its current location over the years, including Cam Newton and Claire Danes.

  • Apartments of the future: (Wednesday 🔒) In a Q&A, the CEO of Northwood Ravin, which develops apartment complexes in Charlotte and throughout the Southeast, shares his insights about the local apartment market, migration trends and what swanky amenities the company’s apartment projects are adding next. In a coincidence of timing, the Business Journal the next day published a Q&A with the CEO of Northwood Office (subscriber-only), who shared a few details of the huge Ballantyne Reimagined project.

  • Charlotte rezonings: (Monday 🔒) As we do every month, we provide the scoop on the previous month’s rezoning requests. In April, developers filed plans for apartments, townhouses and an “entertainment district” in University City.

  • No longer #1: (Wednesday 🔒) So much for the “great state of Mecklenburg” — Wake County overtook Mecklenburg County in population in 2020, according to new census data.

  • Midtown moves into Dilworth: (Wednesday 🔒) A planned office development on the site of the Starbucks on East Boulevard in Dilworth is being marketed as located in “Midtown.”

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Executive editorTony MeciaManaging editorCristina BollingContributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory