NC State’s College of Education has received a $7.25 million charitable grant from the Anonymous Trust to establish the Transformational Scholarships Program and prepare 100 teachers for counties in Eastern North Carolina with fewer resources but greater needs. This is the largest gift the College of Education has received for student scholarships since records have been kept, and among the largest of its kind ever awarded to any college of education in North Carolina to prepare teachers.
“The Anonymous Trust’s mandate is to serve rural and underserved communities in eastern North Carolina. Since its inception a primary tenet of the Trust is that all children deserve access to quality education, and educators deserve access to opportunities often only afforded to teachers in urban districts. Well-trained, passionate teachers shape the learning trajectory of a child,” said Debbie Aiken, executive director of the Anonymous Trust. “We are thrilled to partner with NC State’s College of Education in support of its Transformational Scholars program to create enthusiasm for the teaching profession in rural communities with students whose goal is to return to their communities to educate the next generation of students.”
The Anonymous Trust’s $7.25 million charitable grant will provide 100 need-based scholarships to undergraduate students from Eastern North Carolina, with particular emphasis on recruiting students from counties defined as Tier 1 and Tier 2 and supporting efforts to diversify the teaching profession.
The college will start with a cohort of 20 students in the 2022-2023 academic year and add 20 more per year in each of the following four years. Each Transformational Scholar will receive $10,000 per year in scholarship support over four years. Funding will also go toward providing each student with study-abroad stipends and support for mentoring opportunities, experiential learning experiences and leadership development.
Transformational Scholars will be selected based on their demonstrated financial need; the community where they live; their commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion; and their commitment to the teaching profession.
“This new Transformational Scholarships program will be truly transformational. It will transform the lives of 100 students from Eastern North Carolina who may otherwise not be able to afford college. But also, through the preparation they will receive in our college, these aspiring teachers will go on to transform the lives of those children and youth they teach,” said NC State College of Education Dean Mary Ann Danowitz, D.Ed. “What’s more, as these Transformational Scholars become part of the change agent educational workforce of Eastern North Carolina, they will deepen the collective impact of teachers and administrative leaders working together to strengthen and lift up entire schools and communities.”
The NC State College of Education already has a strong presence in Eastern North Carolina through its Northeast Leadership Academy (NELA). Started in 2010 and directed by Professor Bonnie Fusarelli, Ph.D., this principal preparation program prepares K-12 leaders to serve high-need schools in Northeastern North Carolina, one of the most economically distressed regions in the state.
“Under Dr. Bonnie Fusarelli’s leadership, our college has built North Carolina’s strongest and most effective principal preparation program, with its 117 graduates serving as principals or assistant principals in Eastern North Carolina. Now, thanks to the charitable grant from the Anonymous Trust, we will be able to expand our reach in the area through the new Transformational Scholarships program and build a pipeline of highly effective teachers who will help advance equity and improve educational outcomes in a region in the state where they are needed the most,” Danowitz said. “This is paramount because we know that teachers are the most important school-based factor on student performance.”
To further improve student performance, the Transformational Scholarships Program will also help diversify the teaching workforce. Currently, more than half of K-12 students in North Carolina public schools are of color but only 20% of K-12 teachers are. Research conducted by Associate Professor Anna Egalite has found that students of color are more academically successful when matched with a same-race teacher.
“We know representation is imperative to improving educational outcomes of all learners,” Danowitz said. “But we also know that finances are one of the biggest barriers many students of color and bilingual students face when they consider higher education and a teaching career. Through this charitable grant, the Anonymous Trust is opening up doors of opportunity for many promising future teachers of color and bilingual teachers.”
The Transformational Scholarships Program will extend the College of Education’s efforts to recruit more teachers of color and prepare more highly effective teachers who build equitable, inclusive and supportive classrooms where every learner has the opportunity to thrive. Initiatives introduced over the past few years include the Leadership Institute for Future Teachers (LIFT), We Teach for NC, NC State Education Scholars, the Darla Buchanan Scholarship and the Dean’s Excellence Scholarships, which will provide seven incoming undergraduate students with scholarships totaling $60,000 over four years through gifts made to the College of Education’s Excellence Fund.
“Having grown up in Sampson County and raised children in Clinton City Schools, I have witnessed first-hand the struggle to attract and retain quality teachers. I have seen young folks in our community who would have made great teachers choose another career path and I have seen teachers leave to teach in urban school districts or leave the profession entirely. Other rural communities across Eastern North Carolina face the same challenges,” said Anne B. Faircloth, a trustee with the Anonymous Trust. “We need more teachers who are well-educated, who understand what it is to live and work in a rural community, and who are representative of the community at large. It is an honor to be able to work with Dean Danowitz and her team to build a program that will recruit, educate, mentor and prepare our students to return to Sampson County and similar counties in Eastern North Carolina.”