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Wayfind scholars earn Wingate scholarships

By Luanne Williams

Three years after starting a college-access program in conjunction with Union County Public Schools, Wingate University on Thursday handed out full-tuition scholarships to 11 Wayfind scholars who are headed into their senior years of high school this fall.

The scholarships, contingent on students maintaining their good grades and good behavior, were presented Thursday during a celebratory luncheon held to mark the end of Camp Wayfind, a four-day immersive experience that gives students a taste of life on a college campus. The celebration also came during the same week that Wingate was awarded a $150,000 grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to help support Wayfind over the next two years.

“I am humbled to lead a program that can transform the lives of such deserving young people. I cannot wait to see Wayfind scholars graduate from high school, from Wingate University, and  move on to graduate school or start a professional career,” said Dr. Abby Holland, the program’s director. “With the generous funding from the Jessie Ball duPont fund, we’ll be able to provide more enriching experiences for mentors and scholars while further easing the financial burden of attending college.” 

Scholarship recipient Tessa Stewart, who also received an award for being the Wayfind scholar with the highest GPA among Forest Hills High seniors, said she was excited to be accepted to Wingate, her first-choice college.

“Being part of Wayfind will push me to work harder during my senior year because I see that the hard work pays off,” Stewart said. “To me, Wayfind is about everyone striving and working together toward the same goal and having a positive mindset.”

A selective program that prioritizes students who are historically underrepresented in higher education (i.e., first-generation college students of color), each year Wayfind welcomes 20 teacher-recommended eighth-graders from Monroe and East Union middle schools who have demonstrated academic promise via their grades, school attendance and behavior. 

Once accepted, Wayfind Scholars receive mentoring and support for the next 4.5 years as they go from middle school through high school. Those who complete the full mentoring program and meet Wingate’s admission requirements qualify for the full-tuition scholarship.

Carson Corley says having already been accepted to Wingate will lessen the stress of his senior year at Forest Hills, but he still plans to work hard academically. 

“I can’t slack off. I have to meet the expectations of Wingate University, and I hope to bring my GPA up even more,” he says. 

Jose Solis Bello, who is headed to Wingate from Monroe High, says he’s also motivated to finish strong. He credits Wayfind with expanding his circle of friends and helping him thrive academically even after hitting a rough patch.

“I made a mistake in my sophomore year and I saw how bad it affected my GPA, and I realized I might lose my chance at the scholarship, so I started to work harder. Last semester I scored some of the best grades of my life,” Bello said. “I wanted to continue to be part of Wayfind because it’s fun and encouraging. It has taught me a lot about responsibility.”

Kennitha Dillard was one of many parents attending Thursday’s banquet to celebrate their teens’ success. She said her son Jerry’s participation in Wayfind has helped him prepare for life after high school. 

“It’s been good for him, meeting different people and opening up a lot of opportunities. The tutoring and goal-setting activities have helped to keep him focused,” Dillard said.

Jerry Dillard plans to study business at Wingate.

Chrishaun Hough, who was inducted into the program while at Monroe High, has since transferred to Porter Ridge High, but was accepted to Wingate as a member of the cohort and was thrilled to be able to take part in Camp Wayfind. Using a wheelchair since he was injured in a shooting that killed his cousin in January of 2020, Hough hasn’t let the tragic event stop him. He said he was thrilled to be among his Wayfind family last week and looks forward to college and a potential career in sports broadcasting.

In addition to being accepted to Wingate, Hough was recognized as the scholar with the “most infectious energy.” 

“Seeing his love and passion has changed me as a person, and his impact on the Wayfind community is going to be felt for years to come,” said David McCallister, one of 13 Wingate undergrads who serve as mentors to Wayfind scholars.

After recognizing students with the highest GPAs, Dr. Holland let mentors present camp spirit awards to their standout mentees, many of whom were brought to tears as mentors shared their deeply felt pride in the scholars’ accomplishments and parents and family members cheered them on. 

Wayfind will recognize its first cohort of college-bound students again next spring as a new group of 20 eighth-grade students are inducted into the program and experience an even greater level of support, thanks to the Jessie Ball duPont Fund grant.

In addition to lengthening the duration of Camp Wayfind and adding more cultural excursions to the experience, the grant funds will help provide Spanish-speaking scholars with the chance to earn college credit via College-Level Examination Program tests. (More than 70 percent of Wayfind scholars identify as Latinx, and most speak Spanish at home.)

The funds will also help provide an English 110 class to interested scholars who want to take advantage of dual enrollment while still in high school, and the grant will also pay for a group of scholars and mentors to attend a national conference to help them develop their public speaking skills. Other costs to be covered by the duPont funds include instructional materials such as ACT preparation books, craft supplies and materials to complete STEM challenges.

Learn more about Wayfind.

July 1, 2022