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Belk Endowment gives $10 million for N.C. high school counselors

The Charlotte-based John M. Belk Endowment announced Thursday a $10 million gift to place advisers in 60 rural high schools across North Carolina.

The advisers will work to place more students in community colleges and four-year colleges and universities after graduating from high school.

The grant will be distributed over a three-year period and is just a part of the money that the Belk Endowment plans to award in this and coming years, as part of its new mission of helping get more poor and rural students into college.

Belk Endowment officials say $13 million will be awarded annually.

“This is exciting for us,” said Kristy Teskey, executive director of the Belk Endowment. “It is our first step in the goal of helping reach North Carolina students who need assistance.”

Announcement of the $10 million gift came at the White House, during a college educational summit hosted by first lady Michelle Obama.

“The story of opportunity through education is the story of my life,” Obama said. “And that means attending college beyond high school.”

The College Advising Corps, which places recent college graduates as advisers in high schools across the nation, will work with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Davidson College and North Carolina State University to identify candidates for the positions.

Teskey said representatives from UNC, Davidson and N.C. State would work with the Belk Endowment to identify which schools will get the advisers.

“We are finding that too many talented young people who are college ready do not apply to college because they lack the financial resources and understanding of how to access high education,” Teskey said.

Teskey said attending college “can positively change the trajectory” of students’ lives.

President Barack Obama said Thursday that adding college advisers is vital for high schools in rural or low-income areas.

“When it comes to college advisers, low-income kids are not on a level playing field,” the president said.

The John M. Belk Endowment was launched by the late John Belk, who was mayor of Charlotte and CEO of Belk Inc.

The endowment has been a big supporter of education, mostly at the college level. Among its beneficiaries has been Davidson College, which was John Belk’s alma mater.

But Teskey said the endowment’s new direction is consistent with Belk’s goal of making higher education accessible to more students.

The College Advising Corps has placed advisers in 552 schools across 14 states. A recent Stanford University study showed high schools with College Advising Corps advisers achieved increases of 8 to 10 percent in placing students in colleges, compared to schools without the advisers.

“We are excited to expand aggressively into rural North Carolina,” said Nicole Hurd, founder and CEO of the College Advising Corps. “A successful future for low-income students is often made possible with a college degree, and a successful North Carolina is made possible by a dynamic, educated population.”

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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