GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — The school year is over and high school seniors are now looking ahead to the next chapter. Guilford County students celebrated with drive through graduations and we are also learning, GCS students drove off with $8.7 million in Say Yes scholarships in the 2019-20 school year. Since it's inception in 2015 Say Yes Guilford helped Guilford County graduates with more than 28.5 million in scholarship dollars.
Wendy Poteat is the CEO of Say Yes Guilford. Poteat says the amount of scholarship money that is being distributed to students is increasing along with the number of students applying for Say Yes scholarships.
"We've seen about a 10 to 15 percent jump in the number of kids who are registering for Say Yes Guilford. It just shows my team has boots on the ground and we're making people more aware of the opportunity," said Poteat.
In the 2019-20 academic year Say Yes Guilford awarded $905,864 to GCS graduates attending North Carolina public colleges and universities:
· $769,539 in Tuition Awards to 400 students
· $136,325 in Opportunity Grants to 461 students
In the 2019-20 academic year Say Yes Guilford Scholars received $7,613,240 in awards to partner private colleges and universities:
· $671,828 in Say Yes Choice Grants to 143 students
· $6,941,412 in Say Yes Awards to 259 students (24 of 120 compact schools reporting)
Additionally, 139 GCS graduates received $187,535 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
COVID-19 presented a challenge for students and families when classroom instruction transitioned to virtual learning in March. Say Yes stayed connected in those critical last months of the school year to keep the work going and students focused on completing all of their applications.
"The anxiety level for students and families as you can imagine was super high. So a lot of what we do at Say Yes is get those students and families to the finish line for college scholarship enrollment," said Poteat. "That includes completing the FAFSA, scholarship, and financial aid applications. My staff was able to pivot very quickly and move all of our in-person support to virtual webinars and one on one consultations, so while COVID-19 created huge challenges for us, I think we were able to be very nimble in the way we moved forward with the work."
As the new school year approaches, families are preparing for learning to look much different. Poteat said Say Yes Guilford has been working with community partners to provide access to technology, workshops for mental, social, and emotional help, as well as virtual tutoring.
"When we first went to online learning Say Yes played a huge role to get technology including laptops and Wifi in the hands of students, but I think you'll also see a need in the mental health and social and emotional learning process," said Poteat. "We're looking for ways that we can work with the school district to fill in those gaps on the community side to help students in any way that we can."
Scholarship registration for rising GCS seniors opens October 1, 2020. It might sound like a long time away, but it will be here before you know it.