Crosby Scholars: For College, For Life

You’ve probably heard of Crosby Scholars, or seen some kids wearing black, red, and white shirts with the logo, but do you know what an instrumental organization this is for kids in Rowan County? As a partnership of the Rowan-Salisbury School System, Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina, and other individuals, businesses, and foundations, the Rowan County Crosby Scholars is a nonprofit college access organization that helps middle and high school students begin to prepare academically, financially, and personally for admission into college. Crosby Scholars is only offered in Rowan, Iredell, and Forsyth counties … so we are lucky and blessed to have this program!

Group photo of Rowan County Crosby Scholars

Group photo of Rowan County Crosby Scholars


The program provides academic training, college and financial aid workshops, advisory services, campus tours, academic and personal enrichment workshops on test taking and study skills, time management and conflict resolution, and Last Dollar Grant Scholarships based on unmet needs, to all students willing to complete the requirements of the program. The organization believes that all students who have the desire to go to college should have the opportunity to attend, so they help students and parents navigate the ever-changing world of admissions and financial aid. Students can apply to and enter the program in 6th grade, and stay in it until graduation.


The Crosby Scholars’ goal is to give ALL kids exposure to the possibilities awaiting them after high school and make them thirsty for those opportunities. A total of 2,800 students in Rowan County, from 6th to 12th grades, are currently enrolled in the program and gaining knowledge about college and life after high school. (If you’re reading this and are in middle or high school OR have a kid in middle/high school … it’s never too late to join!)

The seven full-time employees of Crosby Scholars in Rowan say, “It’s great to be a lifeline for kids that need us, and we are happy to help anyone who is on the pathway for higher education—no matter what that may look like.” They work alongside the school system, partnering with guidance counselors and trying to give kids access to as many opportunities as there are.

Ke’Shaia, a graduate of Crosby Scholars, raves about how Crosby Scholars gave her that “thirst.”  “Crosby Scholars helped me so much through my high school years,” she says. “If it was not for this program, I would’ve struggled to get into college. I would encourage almost every person I know to join Crosby Scholars, attend academies and go on college tours.”


I met with Michelle Strong, Middle School Program Coordinator, and Jessica Vess, Executive Director, to pick their brains about Crosby Scholars. I left our meeting feeling revived and excited about the futures of so many Rowan County students. Michelle and Jessica are passionate and excited to help middle and high school kids become the best versions of themselves.

Crosby Scholars Middle School Group


When asked what they think is the best part of being a Crosby Scholar, their responses were both centered around the benefits of the program.

Jessica said, “Unlike National Honor Society or other clubs whose requirements are about grades and money—we’re free. Everybody can be in the program, if enrolled in a public school—not even grades can get you kicked out. We use the word hope here a lot. We expose students to all these different experiences, opportunities…and that spark of hope could be the one thing that empowers them to try to do the things that they wouldn’t have done on their own.”

Michelle said, “I think being in Crosby Scholars as a middle schooler is the beginning of removing limitations they put on themselves. Since our program is character and academic based, they come to a place where they understand the power of their own choice. That’s huge to get to know that before they go into ‘GPA land’…aka high school. We strive to make them habit minded—what habits they should be taking into high school and what habits they shouldn’t be.”

Junior Isaiah Woods, an active member of Crosby Scholars, says, “Being a part of the community of members who cares for you and wants you to be successful is the best thing. The drive that our Crosby Scholar directors have inspires and motivates me to do more than what I already do. I get the opportunity to learn—not just about college, but lessons about life.”

Another huge benefit is that all seniors get a mentor who meets with them regularly throughout senior year. These mentors help them navigate FAFSA, scholarships, applications, and deadlines, and help them stay on top of all the requirements and work that comes with going to college!

Ada Wong, a senior who will graduate from the program in 2019, looks back on her time as a Crosby Scholar joyfully. “My favorite part is the many resources this program provides. One of the things I always took advantage of was the different sessions provided throughout the year. Specifically, there was a Duke representative who came to give insight about the college application process who helped me get into the university I dreamed of…and I will be a Blue Devil in the fall!”


  • In 2018, the program graduated 146 Crosby Scholars (several were valedictorians of their class).
  • Students in the 2018 class are enrolled in more than 45 colleges and universities.
  • 98% of their seniors enrolled in a four- or two-year college.
  • Students in grades 6-12 have provided more than 35,000 hours of volunteer service to the community.

Students enrolled in Crosby Scholars are required to complete a minimum of two community service hours a year, and students participate in a wide range of projects. Students volunteer at Rowan Helping Ministries, local fire departments, Lazy 5 Ranch, Main Street Missions, and many others.

Executive Director Jessica Vess says that this helps our young community members see that “something so little can help someone else. It gets them in the mindset of wanting to help other people, so that’ll stay with them when they get their degree.”

Thanks, Crosby Scholars, for all you do for the ROCO community! Middle and high school students … keep working hard to achieve your dreams, and use all the resources available to get there!