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Free college now available to Davie students

By Carolyn McManamy

Davie Connect; and

Jeanna Baxter White

BeauDigital

We all want to live in a community with abundant job opportunities, excellent schools, high quality of life, and low crime.

We want the best for children – to earn a great education that will launch them into independent adulthood with successful careers.

Education is key to a community’s economic success. More education means more opportunities. Yet the soaring cost of college prevents many students from furthering their education.

What if Davie students had the opportunity to continue their education beyond high school graduation, without incurring substantial student loan debt?

What if students earned a degree or certification, providing them with the right education, skills, and training to obtain a career in the modern workforce?

And what if high-demand, high-paying careers could be found right here in our own community?

These are the dreams and the passion behind IGNITE DAVIE, an initiative designed to develop a well-trained and educated workforce to meet the needs of local businesses and industry. IGNITE DAVIE will students with tuition assistance to attend community college and will assure that all eligible high school graduates, regardless of financial need or academic ability, can earn a certificate or an associates/transfer degree.

The idea of a college promise program was initially discussed by the Davie County Chamber of Commerce a few years ago but only recently became a viable initiative as the result of a meeting in January prompted by Zach Wright’s conversation with Dr. Darrin Hartness, president of Davidson County Community College, about a college promise program for Davie students. Meeting participants included representatives from several organizations including the County of Davie, DCCC, Davie County Economic Development Commission, Davie CONNECT, Davie County Schools, Davie Community Foundation, Phil Fuller, and Zach Wright. The group embraced the idea and a subcommittee of Susan Burleson, vice president of DCCC Davie Campuses and institutional effectiveness, Jane Simpson, president/CEO of the Davie Community Foundation and Carolyn McManamy, director of Davie CONNECT was formed to investigate the feasibility of launching a college promise program.

With the program clearly defined, the founding partners were quick to kick off the fundraising efforts with financial commitments toward the endowment to make it permanent.

IGNITE DAVIE is a “place-based scholarship” which means it is not based on financial need or academic merit, but upon living in Davie County. It is for all students who live here and graduate from public high schools or a registered home school here. The percentage of scholarships awarded will be based upon the number of school years the student resides in Davie.

Beginning with the graduating class of 2020, IGNITE DAVIE will:

• cover in-state tuition and required fees to attend Davidson County Community College (DCCC) after all financial aid or other scholarships have been applied;

• provide up to $250 per semester for textbooks; and

• cover the cost of summer courses for programs that require enrollment through the summer term.

Students must meet the following criteria:

• reside in Davie with award prorated based on continuous enrollment in a Davie County school;

•graduate from a high school or a registered homeschool program in Davie beginning with the Class of 2020;

• complete the IGNITE DAVIE application, the FAFSA application, the DCCC application and apply for Davie Community Foundation scholarships;

• enroll full time in a Davidson County Community College (DCCC) curriculum program (certificate, diploma, or degree);

• maintain a minimum 2.0 college GPA and successfully complete at least 75 percent  of credit hours attempted each semester for continued eligibility (no minimum high school GPA required);

• use the award within three years of high school graduation;

• participate in “Career Connections” through career readiness training and experiences with local business and industry each year; and

• volunteer in the community.

“IGNITE DAVIE will open doors for all high school graduates in Davie County to earn affordable post-secondary credentials and will position our community to develop the most talented workforce in the Southeast,” said Hartness. “At DCCC, we are excited about this investment in the future of Davie County and hope you will consider supporting this community partnership to enrich our community and prepare tomorrow’s workforce through higher education.”

Data suggests that by 2020, an estimated 67 percent of all jobs in North Carolina will require some education and training beyond high school. In Davie County, less than 33% of high school graduates (age 25-64) continued their education and actually earned an associate degree or higher.

Davie County’s post-secondary attainment and completion rates indicate many students do not have the requisite qualifications to compete in the modern workforce, creating a misalignment between workforce needs and capabilities.

“This is the time in our county history where a collaborative vision clearly defines the path forward for the greater good and the investment in future generations becomes a critical building block for tomorrow. Our time is now as we continue to celebrate the rebirth of manufacturing jobs returning to America. Let us continue to invest in our future as we remove impediments to developing a prepared workforce,” said Terry Bralley, president of Davie County Economic Development Commission.

“IGNITE DAVIE is an investment in ourstudents to spark the economic vitality of Davie County,” said McManamy. “It will open doors to educational access allowing eligible Davie County students to further their education beyond high school to ensure they possess the skills required for career and life readiness.  Given the strong connection between overall academic achievement and the community’s economic vitality and quality of life, IGNITE DAVIE is an investment in Davie’s greatest resource: our children.”

The goals of the initiative:

• improve high school graduation rates;

• increase post-secondary attainment and completion rates;

• strengthen workforce and ensuring alignment with business & industry needs;

• attract young families;

• increase the tax base; and

• create a competitive advantage;

“The Davie Community Foundation has been a supporter of Education since its formation,” said Simpson. “Our scholarship program was the fastest-growing segment of the foundation because the community wanted to invest in Davie students. Unfortunately, students continue to be left out of the process because of limited money to award or lack of action on their part.

“We are very excited about the opportunity IGNITE DAVIE will now offer to all Davie kids who choose DCCC. The opportunity for additional education will be available to all and will help our students be ready for jobs right here in Davie. Thank you, Zach Wright, for getting things started and pushing all of us to move forward with this transformational opportunity.”

“This is a chance for all that face financial and other challenges to seize an educational opportunity that can empower and propel themselves, their families and even their future generations forward into the 21st Century economy,” said Wright.

From the beginning, the potential impact of IGNITE DAVIE was evident.  Over the summer, the partners met with business leaders and other community organizations to educate them about the program and encourage financial support.

When asked about their strong commitment to the program Phil and Darlene Fuller stated: “We are passionate about our community and the future of Davie County. It is so important that our students have all the resources they can get. They are our future.”

“IGNITE DAVIE is an extraordinary promise and we invite you to join us,” said McManamy. “We currently have commitments for one-third of the $3 million needed to endow the program for our students and our community, but we need your help to make the promise a reality. Together, we can create a bright and prosperous future for everyone.

“Please join us and others with a vision for a vibrant Davie County by making a gift that will truly spark our community.”

Visit IGNITEDAVIE.com to make a donation or to learn more about the program that begins this fall. Specific questions may be directed to McManamy at cmcmanamy@daviecounty.com or (336) 753-6670.