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Leon Levine gives $1 million for Johnson C. Smith student aid

Family Dollar stores founder Leon Levine has given $1 million to help Johnson C. Smith University students with their financial aid gaps.
Family Dollar stores founder Leon Levine has given $1 million to help Johnson C. Smith University students with their financial aid gaps. JOHN D. SIMMONS - jsimmons@charl

Family Dollar stores founder Leon Levine and his Leon Levine Foundation are giving $1 million to Johnson C. Smith University for its President’s Gap Scholarship Fund, an endowment created to help scholarship students who a face a shortfall in their overall college expenses.

University officials noted the money is in addition to $200,000 given to the fund by the Leon Levine Foundation over the past two years.

The fund helped nearly 500 students in the 2014-15 school year, many of whom were preparing to drop out of college due to a lack of money, JSCU officials said.

“This gift … makes a huge statement about the vital importance of helping our students secure the financial means to complete the coursework required for a JCSU degree,” said JSCU President Ronald Carter.

Established in 2013 by the JCSU Board of Trustees, the President’s Gap Scholarship Fund is a scholarship fund that addresses gaps between financial aid students receive and the total cost of their college education.

“The fund will help hundreds of students achieve their goals,” said Tom Lawrence, executive director of The Leon Levine Foundation. “We believe that education is a pathway to self-sufficiency, and young people should have access to a quality education, no matter their interests or financial means.”

Kenyatta Little, a senior majoring in Communication Arts, is one of students who benefited from the fund. In 2015, her mother was laid off from her job in Winston-Salem.

“We were unsure how we could make ends meet and cover the cost of the tuition payment plan,” Little said. “The President’s Gap Scholarship Fund made up the difference my sophomore and junior years. It took a lot of stress off of my family and enabled me to continue my education.”

Little plans to earn her bachelor’s degree in 2017 and enroll in law school.

The $1 million gift is latest in a series of recent grants given by the Leon Levine Foundation, including $500,000 to help build and operate a child development center in west Charlotte’s Renaissance West Community and a $100,000 challenge grant for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library Foundation.

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