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The way to go: First Ignite Davie students on the job

By Jeanna Baxter White

For Ignite Davie

Cassidy Kluttz earned an associate degree debt free, an impressive accomplishment made possible through Ignite Davie College Promise and North Carolina’s Career & College Promise program.

It’s a route she would recommend to other Davie students. “Ignite Davie has given me the freedom to explore what I want to do and where I want to go with my life without having to worry about money.”

Ignite Davie is a place-based last-dollar scholarship; which means students must live in and attend school in Davie County.  All eligible high school graduates, regardless of financial need or academic ability, can continue their education and training.

The program pays tuition, fees, and a stipend for books for students to attend Davidson-Davie Community College full-time. Students may pursue a certificate, diploma, or associate/transfer program.

Now a vet tech at Clemmons Veterinary Clinic, Kluttz is the first to graduate out of the 71 members of the Davie High Class of 2020 who furthered their education at Davidson-Davie Community College last fall as the inaugural class of Ignite Davie College Promise.

Statistics from the first semester showed that:

• 59 of the 71 (83%) remained eligible after their first semester;

• 9 of the 59, including Kluttz, completed the fall semester with a GPA of 4.0; and

• the average GPA for those who remained eligible was 3.1 (higher than the average GPA for all fall students).

She was able to graduate in December after one semester because she entered the community college with 60 credits earned through North Carolina’s Career & College Promise (CCP) dual enrollment program which allows eligible high school students to enroll in college classes at North Carolina community colleges and universities through their high school. Tuition is free, the only expense is textbooks.

During high school, Kluttz knew that she wanted to get some of her college credits out of the way. Her guidance counselor recommended that she take some AP classes. However, she was reluctant to take the difficult classes knowing that receiving credit was based upon a single exam.

When her mom, Kelly Kluttz, who is the data manager at Davie High, told her about the CCP dual enrollment program, she knew that it was the perfect solution.

Kluttz spent her mornings taking her academic classes at the college and afternoons at the high school taking chorus and band. While some of the classes were rigorous, she enjoyed the small class size and getting to know her teachers. She also appreciated the flexibility college classes provide. Her greatest challenge was transportation between the college and the high school but she was able to rely on friends.

“This was definitely the way to go. If you can take college classes absolutely do it. I only had one semester left when I graduated from high school, which was really nice.”

Ignite Davie arrived at the perfect time. When her mom told her about the new program, she was excited and applied. She has watched her older brother, an engineering student at NC State, accrue a lot of debt and understood Ignite Davie’s value.   

“I was so happy to have this opportunity to further my education after graduation without going into debt. I am really trying to get started in life. I hope to get married sometime in the near future and would like to buy a house. It would be hard to do those things with a lot of debt.”

Kluttz’s success story is one that the founders of Ignite Davie hope to hear over and over again as the Ignite Davie program continues to grow.

Providing access to post-secondary education is more important than ever as data suggests that 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 percent of high school graduates age 25-64 continued their education and earned an associates degree or higher.

Davie County’s postsecondary attainment and completion rates indicate many students do not have the requisite qualifications to compete in the modern workforce. As a result, there is a significant misalignment between workforce needs and capabilities.

“Ignite Davie is an investment in our students to spark the economic vitality of Davie County,” said Carolyn McManamy, director of Davie Connect and one of the driving forces behind Ignite Davie.

“It will open doors to educational access allowing eligible Davie students to further their education beyond high school to ensure they possess 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.”

Jane Simpson, president and CEO of the Davie Community Foundation, which manages the endowment for the program, hopes that hearing stories like Klutz’s will encourage other students to take advantage of the program and continue their education.

“The foundation envisions Davie County as a vibrant community where everyone can thrive. Today, everyone cannot thrive without additional education or training. Ultimately, we hope all students choose to continue their education beyond high school, and Ignite Davie provides a wonderful opportunity to do that without incurring debt,” Simpson said.

“Ignite Davie is an extraordinary promise and we invite you to join us,” said McManamy. “We have commitments for $1,840,000 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.”

Visit IGNITEDAVIE.com to make a donation or to learn more. Specific questions may be directed to McManamy: cmcmanamy@daviecounty.com or (336) 753-6670.