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Salem Glen offers college assistance program

By Sandi Scannelli
For the Clemmons Courier

Salem Glen, a neighborhood of roughly 400 homes spanning Clemmons in Forsyth and Davidson counties, has redefined what it means to live in a remarkable place. Its residents appreciate the potential influence and difference that their collective talents and resource can inspire. Salem Glen already supports the Clemmons Food Pantry, recently benefitting from a mailbox-painting project that resulted in a more than $10,000 contribution to the pantry. Now, a group of neighbors has developed, communicated and adopted a plan to create a special college assistance program. The program will provide up to $2,500 in financial support for college tuition and direct course expenses complemented with mentoring and other support from the experience and skills of its residents. The program will accept one to two students-in-need a year who are pursuing a degree or career certification from Forsyth Tech or Davidson County community colleges. The selected student can be a graduating high school senior or a young adult/adult who has decided to return to school to improve his/her career opportunities. Applicants must be residents of either Forsyth or Davidson counties.

Why this design? The importance of a post-secondary education in securing a higher-wage career is well known. However, only about 20-30% of community college students complete a degree program within 150% of the traditional time (e.g. completing a two-year program within three years). Financial issues only account for part of the dropout or delay. Other reasons include inadequate academic preparation, work and family conflicts, lack of support, and reconsidered career goals.  Completing such programs requires preparation, realistic expectations, discipline, and perseverance through challenges. Salem Glen wants to go beyond a financial award and lend a team of talent and guidance from its professional teachers and business leaders to improve and accelerate the graduation rate.

Not only is the design a different kind of scholarship, so is the source. Rare are examples of a neighborhood banding together to pool its talents and resources with a shared goal to help students through their career preparation. Ken Burkel, former Clemmons Community Foundation Board leader and a current fund partner of the foundation started the conversation that resulted in the program. He invited several of his neighbors to explore additional ways that the neighborhood could collectively help the community. Ken’s group of neighbors discussed the shortage of skilled and technical workers in the pipeline and the slow uptake of high school seniors to embrace the rigors of career preparation. The group concluded that the neighborhood could help students focus and accelerate successful career preparation by offering mentors, encouragement, connections, and other support to tackle the array of impediments to college graduation. Planning committee leader Susan Preston, a retired educator who now substitutes at West Forsyth High School, talks about her involvement and excitement. “Being involved in a neighborhood that gives back in so many ways is a blessing,” Preston said. “Advocating for education is near and dear to my heart; promoting a unique neighborhood assistance program is truly exciting. My neighbors in Salem Glen are such generous people, offering their time, talents and monies. Working together with the Clemmons Community Foundation, Salem Glen will continue to expand its community outreach, helping to provide educational opportunities for deserving college applicants.”

Salem Glen’s leaders may be onto something that may change the future of what is currently termed a “scholarship,” going far beyond financial assistance. This story is just beginning.

Application for the Salem Glen College Assistance Program will be available this spring for students enrolling or continuing in the fall of 2020. For more information about the application process or program, contact Mark Batten at mark@clemmonsfoundation.org or 336-663-6794.   

Sandi Scannelli is president and CEO of the Clemmons Community Foundation.