Sandhills Community College is proud to announce that Mackenzie Peden is the North Carolina Community College System Academic Excellence Award recipient for the College. This award honors one student from each of the 58 NC Community Colleges.


The annual Student Excellence Award winner that Sandhills Community College submits to the North Carolina Community College System is also honored with the college's H. Clifton Blue Award for Academic Excellence, providing a monetary award for the student in addition to state recognition.


Students must embody the core values of the College: integrity, helpfulness, excellence, respect, and opportunity. SCC faculty members nominate students, and a faculty vote determines the student receiving the prestigious award. Nominees must have a 4.0 cumulative GPA and qualify for graduation in the spring or summer of 2023. 


Taking advantage of every opportunity, Peden began as a dual-enrolled high school student at SCC and continued her studies upon graduation. Because she took at least four courses at SCC when in high school, she was eligible for free tuition for two full years through the Sandhills Promise program.


When enrolling at SCC after high school graduation, Peden applied to and was accepted into the UNC-Chapel Hill C-Step program. She was guaranteed admission to UNC as a junior because she successfully completed this rigorous program. She will receive transition and support services while pursuing her bachelor's degree at UNC.


At SCC, she has been a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year schools, and received the coveted Breakthrough Scholarship. 


Peden also thrives outside of the classroom, embodying the essence of Sandhills. "At her heart, she exhibits helpfulness, serving as an SCC Ambassador for the last two years and participating in almost every college event like Spring Fling and the College Resource Fair," said an instructor. In addition, she volunteers at Habitat for Humanity, the Sandhills Food Bank and maintains a part-time job. One instructor describes her as "the epitome of an involved, successful student and highlights the opportunity and potential that Sandhills Community College offers."


Peden will graduate in the spring with an Associate in Science and will transfer to major in biology at UNC. She later plans to attend graduate school, where she will study to become a physician assistant. While completing her degree at Sandhills, she is also enrolled in the Workforce Continuing Education Emergency Medical Technician Program to earn the necessary hands-on hours for PA school.