Local academy helps underserved students get college, career ready

The transition out of high school can be tough for students. Many are faced with the decision to go to college or begin a career.

But for some students in our area, that can be hard because of the challenges they face.

The Dream Center Academy in Gastonia is working to make sure those kids are not left behind.

The academy just received a two-year grant from the New York Life Foundation for its out-of-school-time (OST) program, totaling $50,000. Those funds will help prepare underserved kids for college or a career after high school.

“I wanted to be a lawyer or an engineer,” said Kenedi Armstrong, a ninth grade student at the Dream Center Academy. “I’ve always been dominant in math, but this just helps me push myself even further.”

Now, she wants to be a pediatrician and the teachers at the Dream Center want to help her reach her goals.

“Our program is for our students to become college or career-ready graduates,” said Roxann Jimison, Dream Center Academy’s executive director.

Jimison said the program is quite the commitment.

Participants entering the program are fifth-grade students who were either recommended by their teachers, come from a low-income family, have parents who didn’t attend college or who speak English as a second language.

The center follows them from sixth grade through high school graduation as part of their after-school program.

Because of private donations and grants, the program is free to students, but like so many other organizations, the center is adapting to a new normal.

“It’s so hard to see them and not hug them,” Jimison said.

When schools closed early last year, the learning center’s tutors also taught remotely.

And it’s been a challenge for Armstrong’s mom.

“It’s a little difficult trying to juggle being at work and monitoring ― making sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing as far as school goes,” said Shannon Kapcha.

When school resumes on Aug. 17, students will be on an A-B schedule, with some students in school on Mondays and Tuesdays and others on Thursdays and Fridays.

The center will reflect that schedule with social distancing, encouraging masks and sanitizing the classrooms on Wednesdays when students are not there.

School will look a lot different this year but even with remote learning, students will still need supplies to be successful.

According to Classroom Central, about 127,000 children in the Charlotte region lack the basic supplies they need for school.

Many of the more vulnerable and low-income families depend on help from the nonprofit to provide their students with simple supplies, such as paper and pencils.

Since 1997, in partnership with Classroom Central and Communities in Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the WSOC-TV 9 School Tools program has collected school supplies, which are then distributed free to students in grades K-12.

Covering 22 counties, 9 School Tools is the largest school supply drive in the Carolinas and will run now through Aug. 14.

You can donate the school supplies at any Showmars, Ashley HomeStore or E.R. Plumbing Services location.


Financial donations can also be made to the 9 School Tools program at different levels of giving that support Classroom Central.

For example:

  • A donation of $9 will help provide homework supplies for students.
  • A donation of $25 will help fill a student’s backpack with school supplies.
  • A donation of $50 will supply a teacher with essential school items.
  • A donation of $100 will supply an entire class with STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) kits.


Learn more about 9 School Tools at www.9SchoolTools.com.