As she has many times since coming to Carolina in July, Chancellor Carol Folt spent a recent morning walking the halls of an academic building and shaking hands. Instead of internship opportunity flyers lining the hallways, though, there were blue lockers.
Reidsville High School, about 45 minutes north of Greensboro, might not seem like a place where Carolina’s people are making a difference, but thanks to the Carolina College Advising Corps, they are. Folt went there to take part in a celebration of the program and see how it’s working, firsthand.
“This is the very first high school that I’m visiting in this state,” Folt said. “It feels like every day I come in and I learn something else that is truly wonderful about this state. One of the programs I’ve been most excited about was the advising corps.”
The Carolina College Advising Corps, operated by the University’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, has worked in Rockingham County for five years. The program places recent Carolina graduates in high schools to guide students through the college application process, assisting them with things such as test preparation, financial aid and filling out application forms.
“Our targeted student population is first-generation [college-bound], low-income, under-represented students,” said Yolanda Keith, program coordinator for the advising corps. “We want to try to help a student find an institution or a place where they’ll actually thrive, whether that’s a four-year school or a two-year school or a trade school.”
Partners: UNC and Rockingham County education, business leaders
Rockingham County education and business leaders have partnered with the University to operate the Carolina College Advising Corps. In a community hit hard by job losses in manufacturing and agriculture over the past two decades, the success of the advising corps has been encouraging.
“We are now about 10 percent higher than our peer high schools around us in the college-going rate, and that’s directly attributed to the advising corps program,” said Lee Niegelsky, past chair of the Rockingham County Education Foundation. That kind of success is key, he said, “because if we’re going to be successful in competing for jobs in the 21st century, we need an educated workforce.”
Meeting future members of that educated workforce was a major part of Folt’s visit to Reidsville.
Speaking from the edge of the stage in the school’s auditorium, she told the assembled high school seniors about her transition to higher education from high school. To earn money to pay for her education, Folt said that she worked as a waitress at a southern California restaurant.
“I had moved from Ohio, needed to establish my residency and save some money, so I started out by going to a community college. It turned out for me to be a wonderful decision, because it gave me an opportunity to get used to taking classes.”
Confidence to pursue higher education
Gloria Schoeberle, a college advisor at Reidsville High School, said many of her students felt more confident about pursuing higher education after Folt spoke to them.
“These students now understand that UNC-Chapel Hill is not some big sort of scary idea, and in a larger sense college, universities, they’re not some kind of scary idea,” Schoeberle said. “Because the unknown is scary.”
Folt’s path from high school to rising through the Ivy League ranks at Dartmouth College and her new role as Carolina’s chancellor resonated with the students.
“She gave me inspiration to do more and achieve more,” said Reidsville senior Graciela Rico. “I learned that if I really set my mind to things, then I can really go for it and I can really reach things like she did.”