After showing promise, dedication, ambition and a strong academic interest, 15 students were selected by their teachers for the 2013 induction class of New Century Scholars in Macon County.
In a region of North Carolina with a high number of low-income and first-generation students, the New Century Scholars program was formed from an altruistic idea that promising last-dollar tuition-assistance to students in the seventh grade would remove the financial barrier of education and increase the number of high school students enrolling in college after high school. The New Century Scholars Program, which began in 1995, is a collaborative educational effort among the public schools in Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties and Southwestern Community College (SCC).
The New Century Scholars Program (NCS) identifies potential scholars at the end of the sixth grade and provides extra support to those students throughout middle school, high school and college. Students, parents and schools sign a contract annually outlining behavioral, academic and service requirements. Upon successful graduation from high school, scholars in good standing with the NCS program are guaranteed the opportunity to attend SCC for five semesters without paying the cost of tuition and fees.The New Century Scholars program has been so successful in Western North Carolina that it has been replicated by other community colleges across North Carolina. This program has been given regional, state and national recognition as a model partnership program.
The New Century Scholars program offers not only a tuition-assistance guarantee, but a tremendous amount of additional support throughout the academic careers of its scholars. Pam Collins serves as the NCS Coordinator for Macon County and works closely with each student in the program to ensure they stay on track and focused on their future. Collins has worked as the NCS Coordinator eight years, but has worked on varying levels with NCS since early 2000. Students are guided, from an early for age, toward academically rigorous coursework. Early testing and identification of problem areas enables community college staff to point students toward high school courses that may decrease the need for developmental coursework when students matriculate to Southwestern Community College.
Collins works with scholars to get them involved in activities designed to improve academic preparation and performance. “The program is about so much more than just school, but instead it helps kids find themselves and really grow as individuals,” said Collins. “I have seen shy kids come out of their shell and really blossom into strong, confident young adults.”
Students are expected to participate in a minimum of 10 hours of volunteer service each year throughout middle and high school and to remain drug and alcohol free. Collins explained that the volunteer services teach scholars the importance of community involvement and participation and helps to instill in them a love for the community. Workshops, tutoring, cultural enrichment activities and visits to Southwestern Community College increase both the connection with the college and the likelihood that these scholars will be successful on the campus. Southwestern Community College provides scholars with transition assistance including: admissions counseling, testing and financial aid workshops. These services help facilitate the migration from high school to college.
While at SCC, scholars receive guidance and support to help them achieve their goals. Pamela Judson, who serves as the New Century Scholars Coordinator for SCC, helps students stay on track once they reach college. In registering first year scholars, most are placed in learning groups with New Century Scholar peers. Scholars continue to work with the NCS Coordinator throughout their time at SCC to create an academic plan, discuss transfer options beyond their education at SCC, and access resources to enable them to be successful. The NCS program believes that the types of intervention strategies used in the New Century Scholars program are as important, if not more important, than the tuition-assistance a scholar receives.
The NCS program is funded through community donation and support. “Funds for the last-dollar tuition-assistance are raised within the community from generous individuals, organizations and local businesses to support the many scholars who are not eligible for enough grant funding to cover the cost of tuition,” said Judson.
In seventh through 12th grades in Macon County, 134 students are currently utilizing the NCS program. There are currently 116 students from the Macon County NCS program enrolled at SCC. Last academic year, 23 NCS recipients graduated with degrees that made them eligible to utilize their NCS opportunity at WCU.
Judson said that with the success of the NCS program, students have opportunities all across the state. “The NCS program at SCC has been replicated across the state, meaning that new connections are being made all of the time,” said Judson. “Although NCS students in our region only have contractual agreements with SCC and WCU, ASU offers a scholarship specifically designated for New Century Scholars. We would love to create partnerships with other state universities in NC who recognize the benefits of supporting students who have been a part of the New Century Scholars program.”
“I have students that are in college who still call me and ask me for help or advice,” said Collins. “These are my kids. I want to be there for them to help them and guide them in any and every way possible. I know that some of these kids may not have furthered their education if it was not for this program. I have seen NSC students be the first in their family to go on to college, and that doesn't just mean the world to that child, but it also means the world to their family.”