New program aims to help students go to college

April Abernethy, left, a rising 10th-grader at Carson High School, learns about Crosby Scholars from program director Melisa Tate. This will be the first year for the college access program in Rowan County.
April Abernethy, left, a rising 10th-grader at Carson High School, learns about Crosby Scholars from program director Melisa Tate. This will be the first year for the college access program in Rowan County.

SALISBURY — Students can now register for a new college access program in Rowan County offering free guidance, information and even financial aid.

Public school students in grades 6-10 can apply to join Rowan County Crosby Scholars through Oct. 1. Applications can be found on the program’s website, www.crosbyscholarsrowan.org, or in the guidance offices of schools in the Rowan-Salisbury School System.


“It’s a unique college access program that works with students financially, personally and academically to ensure they can go to college,” said Executive Director Jennifer Canipe. “We want to make sure they have an opportunity to have a successful career, and the best way to do that is through continuing education beyond high school.”

That doesn’t just include four-year colleges, she said, but also two-year degree programs and other opportunities.

How it started: Crosby Scholars began in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System. Canipe and co-founder Gwinn Barr sought to bring the program to Rowan County after seeing how well it was working.

In 2012, 100 percent of senior participants in Forsyth County graduated high school. Immediately after graduation, 98 percent of seniors in the program enroll in a two-year or four-year college.

Canipe said she’s excited to enroll as many students as possible and help them achieve the same goals.

“When I was in school, I would have liked for someone to have said to me, ‘Here’s what you need on a silver platter,’” Canipe said. “We’re sort of that group for them. We have the tools to help every student achieve the dream of going on to college.”

How it works: Students must enter the program by the 10th grade, but it continues through their senior year.

Volunteers are set up to work as advisors in each of the high schools, Canipe said. They share their experience with students and help them start focusing on college admissions.

In 9th and 10th grade, the advisors answer students’ questions and help them learn about different colleges, the application process and financial aid.

At the end of 11th grade, each student is assigned a specific advisor who begins working with them one-on-one. Throughout the 12th grade, the advisors make sure seniors are on track to attend college and help them work through any problems.

Crosby Scholars helps students apply for financial aid and scholarships, and it also awards graduating seniors and returning college students “last dollar grants” based on unmet need.

Crosby Scholars staff members include Canipe, program director Melissa Tate and program associate Jessica Vess.

On Wednesday, Tate set up a booth at Carson High School to offer information to students picking up their schedules.

April Abernethy, a 10th grader, said she will be looking into the program.

“It would set me on the right track for what I want to do in college,” said Abernethy, who’s aiming to be a production manager for a music company.

Tate said she’s excited to see so many students, even in the middle schools, thinking about their future.

“We’re drilling into them early on that college is non-negotiable,” she said. “I’ve seen the opposite end, kids who don’t take it seriously, and most of them say the same thing - ‘I wish I had taken time to do things a different way.’”

As Crosby Scholars, middle schoolers are encouraged to start preparing for their future by developing good habits.

What they’ll do: In grades 6-8, the program focuses on life and study skills. Students can attend Saturday academies to learn about anger management, time management, test-taking strategies, building self-esteem and more.

For older students, Crosby Scholars offers group workshops on academic skills, leadership development, financial aid planning, college admissions and SAT preparation.

Participating students in grades 6-10 are required to attend at least one academy or workshop per year. To stay in the program, they must maintain a 2.0 grade point average and must not receive an out-of-school suspension.

When they become Crosby Scholars, students agree to remain drug-free and alcohol-free. They also are required to complete two hours of community service, and high schoolers are encouraged to complete at least five.

How to help: To sustain its free program, Crosby Scholars is working on a fund raising campaign called Invest Forward.

“That’s an opportunity for the community to come in and say, ‘Yes, we want to invest in bringing this program into the Rowan community,’” Canipe said. “We want to take sixth grade students all the way to senior year and beyond.”

Canipe said the program is also working on establishing a “solid volunteer base.” The volunteers will receive training from Communities In Schools, a partner of Crosby Scholars.

Rowan County Crosby Scholars is located at 1923 S. Main St. in Salisbury. For more information, visit www.crosbyscholarsrowan.org or call 704-638-6235.

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