The Alumni Times - N.C. A&T State University Alumni Newsletter
Carnela Renée Hill ’91

Alumna Decorates the White House for the Holidays

Thanksgiving is traditionally a day filled with food, family and football. But for Carnela Renée Hill ’91, Thanksgiving instead marked the beginning of an extraordinary work week at the White House.

Hill, president and owner of Raleigh-based CR Hill Design Group LLC, was one of 102 designers from 35 states selected to decorate the White House for the holidays. Designers worked seven 12-hour days decorating the First Family’s home with 62 trees, a 500-pound gingerbread house, and much more.

To be selected, designers submitted examples of their work for consideration. And then they waited.

“My faith kept me focused during the waiting process,” said Hill. “I believed this was my year to go to the White House to decorate.”

After a long application process and background check, Hill received the notification she was selected to be on the team.

“I was grateful and elated. I called my mom to tell her I would not be coming home for Thanksgiving since I had to report to the White House on Thanksgiving Day.”

Hill’s determination to seize opportunities is something that was instilled in her during her time at North Carolina A&T State University. While attending N.C. A&T, Hill served as President of the Cooperative Education Organization.

“The mentors, corporate liaisons and leadership in the organization always reminded us not to miss an opportunity, but to seize the moment,” said Hill. “NC A&T gave me an education and prepared me for life experiences. I chose to live my life taking advantage of as many opportunities as I could, sharing that same tenacity along the way.

While at the White House, Hill worked in several areas, including the Colonnade Room, the State Dining Room, and a “secret room” she can’t discuss. The White House expects 68,000 people to tour the decorated rooms during the holiday season, but Hill was particularly excited about decorating for the Obamas.

“My favorite memories are shaking hands with First Lady Michelle Obama,” said Hill, “and looking at the work I contributed to and realizing it would touch so many lives, especially the First Family.” 

Touching lives and helping others is a key motivation for Hill. “I believe in making a difference in the lives of others. Don’t just reach back. Reach back with both hands and feet by encouraging and helping as many people as possible.”

The importance of making a difference in the lives of others is also something Hill traces back to her time at A&T. 

“I am grateful for those that poured into my life while I was at A&T,” said Hill. “I am proud to be an Aggie, and I would not trade my Aggie experience for anything.”

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