$1 million gift makes college achievable for Carolina Youth Coalition scholars

Black-led nonprofit prepares high-achieving, underresourced students for college

$1 million gift makes college achievable for Carolina Youth Coalition scholars

The Carolina Youth Coalition (CYC), a Black-led nonprofit, announced a $1-million donation from the Albemarle Foundation, as well as the launch of the Smith Opportunity Scholarship (SOS) Fund, to benefit high school students from underresourced families in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School region who are on their way to attend four-year universities and colleges.

Support from the Smith Opportunity Scholarship Fund and the donation from Albemarle Foundation will allow additional students to be served by CYC and to obtain the funds needed to attend college.

The Albemarle Foundation’s contribution will offer growth for the nonprofit’s operations and the Smith Opportunity Scholarship Fund will provide gap scholarships for college-bound youth.

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Aaron Randolph, executive director of the Carolina Youth Coalition
Aaron Randolph, executive director of the Carolina Youth Coalition

Led by executive director and co-founder Aaron Randolph, CYC provides support for high-achieving, underresourced high school students, or “Fellows”, to get into, excel and graduate from college, so they achieve their potential and become full participants in society.

Randolph, a graduate of Cornell University and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, previously worked for the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition, before relocating to Charlotte in 2017 and teaming up with Kathryn Kissam to co-found CYC.

In 2018, CYC was chosen through a competitive process by both the Albemarle Foundation and Bank of America as one of 17 nonprofits to receive a combined $20 million over five years to support economic mobility in Charlotte.

Since 2018, CYC Fellows have earned over $20 million in scholarships and grants and have accepted a total of $7.3 million. Most important, 57% of all Fellows are attending four-year universities debt-free.

CYC Fellows are currently attending colleges and universities across the Carolinas and the country including Berea College, Brown University, Furman University, Georgetown University, University of Miami, North Carolina State, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC Greensboro, University of Pennsylvania, Queens University, Wake Forest University, Wofford College and more.

“We believe that higher education has the potential to create lasting, generational change for our Fellows and their families,” said Randolph.

“Sparking this transformation requires a long-term commitment to matching our youth’s boundless potential with the empowering resources they need to design and fulfill a bright future.”

“Corporate and personal philanthropy is changing lives,” added Kathryn Kissam, co-founder and board chair. “Through the generous support of the Albemarle Foundation and the Smith Family, we will be able to increase affordable access to college and ensure our youth have the academic, social, and financial support needed to persist through college and ultimately obtain social and economic equity in our communities and beyond.”

The Smith Opportunity Scholarship Fund, endowed by Andrea and Sean Smith, provides “gap scholarships” to CYC Fellows planning to attend a four-year university. The SOS award bridges the funding gap between the total cost of attendance and the recipients' financial aid package after federal Pell Grants, federal loans, and other scholarships. In combination with CYC’s customized college counseling and the Fellows' determination to succeed, the SOS award will provide a transformational opportunity to local youth to graduate from college unburdened with crippling debt.

Andrea and Sean Smith
Andrea and Sean Smith

“We are honored to support the great work of Carolina Youth Coalition and these deserving and high-performing students through our scholarship fund,” said Andrea and Sean Smith.

“Sparking this transformation requires a long-term commitment to matching our youth’s boundless potential with the empowering resources they need to design and fulfill a bright future.”

Of the Carolina Youth Coalition’s college and high school Fellows 2019-2020 class, nearly 90% are Black or Latino. These Fellows earned 216 total college acceptances, with nearly $15.5 million in scholarships. Ninety-one percent of the students are also first-generation college students.

“The Albemarle Foundation has been involved with CYC since its inception, and this recent pledge of $1 million in funding ensures its continued success in the Charlotte community,” said Sandra Holub, executive director of the Albemarle Foundation. “There are many ways to engage with CYC, as volunteers, mentors, and donors. Albemarle and our employees fully embrace and thoroughly exemplify our core value of CARE. We encourage other corporations and organizations to do the same, to get involved and be a bright beacon of hope and change to our most valuable resource, the promising youth in our community,”

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