Universal Leaf North America U.S. Scholarship Endowment

The Universal Leaf North America tobacco company may reside in Nashville, NC, and be part of a global group of 32 companies, but it strives to make a difference as locally as where their employees live.

“One of our objectives as a company to be in the community,” said Vanessa Smith, vice president of Human Resources. Many of their employees come from Johnston County, so in 2015 the company set up the Universal Leaf North America U.S. Scholarship Endowment at Johnston Community College.

Universal Leaf North America takes the tobacco purchased by tobacco companies from the tobacco farmers, and cleans it and packages the tobacco for the companies. And they store the tobacco if the company isn’t ready to get it back.

So the scholarship is for employees or anyone going into manufacturing, Smith said. The scholarship recipients are selected from a list of priorities. First choice is an employee, then an employee’s spouse or child or grandchild with financial needs. The next choice is to go to anyone who in an industrial or business program.

Then there was the time no one fit that criteria with the required 3.0 grade point average, and the scholarship went to a nursing student. “Anyone with the grades and financial need deserves it,” Smith said.