Crosby Scholars opens doors to college for students

By Jeanie Groh

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 2, 2015

College is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences a young adult can go through.

Sadly only 17 percent of Rowan County residents over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree, but Crosby Scholars of Rowan County is on a mission to ensure every public school student in the county has the opportunity to attend college.

“We want to end the cycle of poverty and we feel education is the means to be able to step out of that cycle,” said Executive Director Jennifer Cannipe.

The program is open to all Rowan-Salisbury sixth through 11thgrade students this year, and will expand to serve high school seniors as well next year with its first graduating class. Students must apply by the time they’re in 10th grade.

When Crosby Scholars of Rowan County started last school year, 1,734 students joined. This year, that number has almost doubled, with more than 2,300 participants. The program also employs five fulltime staff members

“We’re a college access program,” Cannipe said. “There’s so many layers to our program.”

All Crosby Scholars are required to maintain a 2.0 grade point average, participate in community service and attend academy workshops, where they learn skills such as note taking, anger management and standardized testing.

It all begins in middle school, when Crosby Scholars staff members work hard to introduce the idea of college and to stress the connection between the choices the students make now impact their future.

In high school, Crosby Scholars “molds our students into the most competitive college applicants they can be,” Cannipe said.

“The senior year is really the capstone of the program,” said Jessica Vess, program director for Crosby Scholars.

Beginning next year, the program will helps high school seniors through every step of the college process, from selecting colleges, to applications and essays to navigating financial aid.

Right now, they’re working with each of the program’s 250 rising seniors to create a profile of the students, including their goals, transcripts and activities.

Students will be paired with a volunteer mentor who will meet with them one-on-one each month to ensure they are on track and don’t slip through the cracks. They’ll discuss grades, application deadlines, essays, teacher recommendations and financial aid throughout the year.

This week, juniors from the Crosby Scholars program visited four North Carolina colleges. On Tuesday, they visited Wake Forest University in Winston Salem and North Carolina Central University in Durham. On Wednesday, they toured Lenior-Rhyne University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

According to Vess, they wanted to give the students a look at a wide variety of options, including public, private and historically black schools.

“This is a really great experience for students to go out to a school,” she said. “They get that tangible experience of walking the campus. You can’t get that from the website.”

“That’s a huge part of deciding,” she added.

While the students were at Wake Forest University, Allie Blum, a senior at the college, took them around campus, showing them different buildings and explaining how the admissions process works. She also told them about her own experiences as a student at Wake Forest.

Heidi Jaquez, a student a West Rowan High School, said she really enjoyed seeing Wake Forest University.

She added that the college’s test-optional admissions process was especially attractive to her.

“A lot of colleges ask for it (SAT or ACT score),” she said. “A lot of people aren’t good at tests.”