Program helping first-generation college students from Charlotte expands

Program helping first-generation college students from Charlotte expands

West Charlotte High School students Ivy Cooper (left) and Kayla Pressley of the Delaware College Scholars Program. Both will graduate from West Charlotte this week. Photo courtesy Delaware College Scholars

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Ivy Cooper will be the first person to graduate from high school in her family in about a decade.

The 17-year-old West Charlotte High School senior, who graduates tomorrow, will also be a first-generation college student. She’ll attend North Carolina Central University this fall.

  • “I’m definitely nervous about that, because I want to show my younger cousins that they can also go to college and do the same thing that I’m doing, but it’s also a lot of pressure because I kind of don’t know what I’m doing,” Cooper tells Axios.

Driving the news: Cooper is one of more than a dozen West Charlotte students participating in the Delaware College Scholars program’s Harrell Charlotte Expansion arm. DCS serves first-generation college students and students lacking resources as they navigate high school.

After a three-year pilot program at West Charlotte, it will now be called Queen City Scholars because program leaders plan to expand it to more schools next year.

  • 25 students have been recently accepted into the program at West Charlotte for the upcoming year. The program is actively developing new partnerships with other community-based organizations and high schools in order to have new scholars coming from all over the region starting next summer, founder Tony Alleyne tells Axios.

Why it matters: West Charlotte High has a history of doing things first in Charlotte. It opened in the 1930s as a high school for Black students, then later became a model for successful integration when students were bused in from across the city in the 1970s.

  • “West Charlotte has pioneered how public education gets done in the South,” Charlotte Mayor pro tem Braxton Winston, who is a college counselor for DCS, tells Axios, adding it was appropriate to start the program here because of the school’s history.

Details: The program is free to students. They join DCS their sophomore year and are provided with flights and transportation, plus room and board, for the in-person summer session. Students also go on college visits through the program and take additional college prep courses.

  • Winston, who was Alleyne’s classmate in middle school and later his roommate in Charlotte, is also teaching a humanities course for the program.
  • Students also receive one-on-one college counseling for everything from their application essay to understanding financial aid.
  • The work doesn’t end once a student graduates from high school. DCS, which started in Delaware a decade ago, stays connected with students once they’re in college.

Context: Expansion to Charlotte was inspired by Alleyne’s connection to the city and state. He began his teaching career at Charlotte’s Martin Luther King, Junior Middle School with Teach For America. And his founding board chair, Paul Harrell, Jr., who has since passed away, is a Greensboro native.

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