7students win first-generation scholarships

Being the first person in your family to go to college is an impressive accomplishment, but paying for higher education can sometimes be more difficult than the academics.

That is where the Cabarrus County Education Foundation can help.

“The Cabarrus County Education Foundation is the nonprofit resource for Cabarrus County Schools,” said Executive Director Rachel Wilkes. “We are a separate, 501(c)(3) organization, but we exist to serve the students and teachers of Cabarrus County.”

The four main programs that the foundation offers are the Classroom Mini-Grant Program, Superintendent’s Choice Art Award, First Generation Scholarship Program and the Teacher of the Year recognitions.

The first batch of scholarships were recently awarded to high school seniors who are the first in their family to further their education beyond a high school diplomas.

“The CCEF Board of Directors wanted to expand the organization’s reach into Cabarrus County Schools. For the past three years, we have had great success with the impact of our Classroom Mini-Grant Program and knew that we needed to continue expanding our programs for the district. The First Generation Scholarship Program is a direct result of this expansion.”

I asked Wilkes how she and the board selected the scholarship winners. “With the 2014-15 school year being the first year to offer these scholarships, we wanted to keep our criteria fairly simple,” she said. “Therefore, any high school senior in Cabarrus County schools who is the first in their family to pursue a degree beyond a high school diploma can apply. We look for candidates who understand the importance of education and have an overwhelming desire to continue their own.”

Thanks to a grant from the Hillsdale Fund, seven seniors will receive scholarship money for the 2014-15 school year. A total of $5,000 this year in Scholarship support was awarded. There were three $1,000 scholarships and four $500 scholarships.

The recipients were:

Janeia Benson, Concord High School. She will attend North Carolina A&T State University and plans to major in accounting.

Cheyenne Brasington, Hickory Ridge High School, UNC Charlotte, architecture.

Rheena Coughenour, Northwest Cabarrus High School, UNC Charlotte, nursing.

Nicole Galante, Cox Mill High School, Elon University, English literature.

Jacob Lowder, Central Cabarrus High School, N.C. State, sports management.

Hannah Oxendine, Cox Mill High School, UNC Charlotte, social work.

Dallas Soffa, Hickory Ridge High School, N.C. State, animal science.

Linda Doherty is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Linda? Email her at

Learn more:

For information, contact Rachel Wilkes at 704-262-6246 or or go to the CCEF website at