The Citizen Scholars Institute identifies and works with at-risk 6th- through 12th-grade students to help them prepare for the college selection and application processes.
Wofford will offer $20,000 a year in scholarship money – $80,000 over a student’s four years at the college to Citizen Scholars who qualify as Life Scholarship recipients through the S.C. Lottery Scholarship Fund. Citizen Scholars who qualify as Palmetto Fellow Scholarship recipients will receive $25,000 per academic year – $100,000 over four years – from Wofford.
“Among Wofford’s goals is to enroll more first-generation students – those who are the first in their families to attend college – and that approach aligns perfectly with the Citizen Scholars program,” says Brand Stille, vice president for enrollment at Wofford.
Over the past four years, Wofford has committed more than $1 million in scholarships for first-generation students, guaranteeing 20 such students scholarships valued at $25,000 each year for each entering class.
Nearly 15 percent of Wofford’s students are the first in their families to attend college, President Nayef Samhat says. “The addition of these scholarship dollars for new Citizen Scholars illustrates Wofford’s continued commitment to providing transformative educational experiences that are both accessible and affordable. First-generation college students change their families, and they make their communities better places in which to live and raise families.”
The enhancement of the relationship with the Citizen Scholars program by adding scholarship dollars renews and strengthens Wofford’s commitment to that population of students.
“Wofford has had a great relationship with the Citizen Scholars program for years,” Stille says. “We’ve enrolled many outstanding students who participated in this program. Providing scholarships to Citizen Scholars supports our goals of enrolling more first-generation students, more Pell Grant-eligible students and more minority students.”
Gloria Close, executive director of the Citizen Scholars Institute, says, “This scholarship opportunity is life-changing for Citizen Scholars throughout Spartanburg County and equalizes educational opportunities for students who show perseverance and the academic abilities to succeed. The Citizen Scholars Institute and the Spartanburg County Foundation are grateful for strong partnerships and community support, and we recognize that the accomplishments of this program could not be possible without such support. These significant scholarships fuel our efforts and benefit not only students, but Spartanburg County as a whole.”
Spartanburg County’s seven school districts select Citizen Scholar candidates each year. Citizen Scholar staff and mentors meet with the students often and assist them in planning for college, learning about the application process, working on interview skills and other preparation work.
Citizen Scholar high school juniors and seniors are assigned a Wofford student as a mentor as they concentrate on final preparations for college entry. The scholars also meet with program leaders once a month for workshops that emphasize important steps along the way to entering college.
The program has had deep impacts on Wofford students.
Senior Ashley Cox, a chemistry major from Moore, SC, was accepted for Wofford admission after being involved in Citizen Scholars starting at the end of her 5th-grade year.
“The former director of the program really pushed me to go to Wofford because she knew that I could accomplish anything I put hard work into,” Cox says. “When I received my acceptance letter, I was so overjoyed that I called my mentor, Monte Remaley, and the (then) director, Jocelle Allen, to tell them.
“That moment was so memorable because I did not think I would have the financial capabilities to even attend Wofford. To at least have the acceptance letter, it allowed the ball to be in my court, and I ran with it.”
Cox has worked with high school students in support of Citizen Scholars, stressing the importance of first impressions and preparation for college studies.
Bradleigh Mills, a Wofford first-year student from Boiling Springs, SC, says participation in Citizen Scholars influenced both her college choice and her approach to her high school years.
“I participated in enrichment activities and seminars that prepared me for professional and academic settings,” says Mills, a double major in biology and Spanish. “The life lessons I learned are ones that I continue to cherish. The opportunities that I have received just from having a connection to the program are exceptional.”
In addition to the new scholarships for Citizen Scholars and commitments to other first-generation students, in 2015, Wofford created the Gateway Scholars program as part of its Pipeline to Postsecondary Success, funded by a grant from the Jolley Foundation. The initiative through the Office of Student Success and the Center for Community-Based Learning provides 20 first-year students in underrepresented groups with the opportunity to build relationships and learn skills needed to help ensure their success at the college. The students include Pell Grant-eligible students, first-generation college students and DACA-protected students.
The New York Times has recognized Wofford as one of the most economically diverse colleges in the country, naming it to a list of “Top Colleges Doing the Most for the American Dream.”