Investing in students in rural North Carolina January 16, 2014

North Carolina has one of the highest concentrations of rural students in the nation, at 685,000. Forty percent of these students are from underserved populations, and over one third live in poverty. These challenges are compounded by the struggle many rural communities in North Carolina are facing to reinvent themselves in a global economy with fewer American manufacturing, agricultural and technical jobs.

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In 2014, the John M. Belk Endowment began a three year partnership with the College Advising Corps (CAC) to aid in strengthening pathways to prosperity for students in underserved rural areas.

The CAC is a nonprofit organization based in North Carolina that works to increase the number of low-income, first-generation college and underrepresented high school students who enter and complete post-secondary education. Currently this organization partners with 23 academic institutions to prepare their own graduates to be college advisers and, upon completion, places them in America’s underserved high schools. In 2014-2015, they will place advisers in at least 520 high schools across 14 states—serving more than 150,000 students. Now, thanks in part to the John M. Belk Endowment, 60 rural North Carolina high schools will be added to the docket.

The CAC is already hard at work in our state, having established a partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, through which 32 advisers are currently serving in 51 high schools. But a significant deficit remains, particularly across rural North Carolina. Our funding will place CAC members from Davidson College, Duke University, North Carolina State University and UNC-Chapel Hill into 60 additional underrepresented rural high schools over the next three years. The Endowment sees these advisers as incredible assets, whose commitment and drive will help us achieve our goals.

“I teach my students every day that just because you come from a small town, it does not mean that you cannot make a big impact on this world. You matter and you can make a difference,” says Jessica Redmond, college adviser at two area high schools in Warrenton, N.C.

The Endowment’s resolve to help these students was bolstered by Michelle Obama’s second-term focus to increase access to post secondary education for low-income and other underrepresented students, as well as the President’s efforts to boost the nation’s college graduation rates. We are committed to being part of this significant national movement.