Their Stories: Volume I
ISBN: 978-1880463-99-4 | Publication: 2023 | Pages 224 • $19.95
Foreword – Laura Hickson, Ed.D.
I have known Mr. Wynn for over 30 years. He has a remarkable ability to meet students where they are and inspire them to dream bigger and to reach higher. However, he will be the first to tell you that he does not believe in motivation for motivation’s sake. As a child of poverty, Mr. Wynn believes that when students are informed, they are more easily inspired. In this regard, his approach to instruction is genuine and authentic. The manner in which he and his wife are able to personally connect with our population is reflected in the outcomes.
Our district is a Title I District, where 100 percent of students qualify for free- or reduced-lunch. We are located along the infamous South Carolina Corridor of Shame, so called, because we are among the lowest funded public schools in the nation. Our students live in generational poverty and oftentimes enter school void of hope. For many of our families, their primary educational goal is for their children to graduate from high school. Historically, even our class valedictorians and salutatorians have had a greater focus on being awarded their respective medals, as opposed to being awarded full college scholarships. The Wynns and their College Planning Cohort Program changed all of that.
As an Associate Superintendent, my Director of College and Career Readiness, Ms. Yvonne Scott, and I learned of the Wynns’ success in expanding college and scholarship opportunities for students at their church in Marietta, Georgia. Many of the students with whom the Wynns were working with in their church were students from similar socioeconomic demographics as our students. I convinced our school board that we needed their program and in 2014 we created our first cohort.
Ms. Yvonne Scott, Director of College and Career Readiness, worked closely with Mr. and Mrs. Wynn, who worked hands-on with our students, in a trailer that sits behind Lake City Early College High School—appropriately named the “College Corner.” After one year, the data was indisputable—100 percent FAFSA completion; 95 percent college enrollment; no failing classes; and no discipline infractions. Mikayla Hanna, our 2015 Class Salutatorian received her prized medal, but also received a full scholarship as our district’s first Gates Millennium Scholar. Mikayla, the first in her family to attend college and under the guardianship of her grandmother, dared to dream bigger and reach higher toward pursuing a PhD and was selected as our state’s first University of Maryland – Baltimore County Meyerhoff Scholar. For our district, this was a tipping point. Our students and families began to believe that they could aspire toward more than high school graduation. The final scholarship tally for our first cohort was over $2.4 million.
Since that first cohort, the Wynns have continued to forge relationships with students and families in our district based on a foundation of trust. Their 4-year college planning curriculum inspires rising high school freshmen to be intentional in “planning” their high school trajectory into college and careers. This planned trajectory is focused on avoiding student loan debt and using their high school journey to make themselves not only good high school students, but competitive college and scholarship applicants.
The success of such a vision is reflected in this book through the stories of our students, all of whom have attended, or are now attending college on full scholarships. Ashley, Damian, De’Nyjhia, Jason, Jayla, Juliana, Mikayla, and Rebeca are stories that affirm the plethora of postsecondary pathways now being pursued by our students. Some students are attending college close to home while others have traveled as far as Williamstown, Massachusetts. Poor students. First generation students. Students who had previously lacked the guidance and support to see beyond the borders of our small rural South Carolina community. In their own words, they provide insight into how they were informed, how they were supported, and how they were inspired to see their own potential.
While these are the stories being shared in this book, they are by no means the only such stories in our district, nor are they to suggest that every student should be pursuing a 4-year college pathway and the Wynns have never suggested as such. We have students pursuing workplace certifications, learning trades, and attending technical schools. Most importantly, whatever postsecondary pathway they are pursuing, we have inspired hope. Ashley, the first story reflected in this book entered high school with aspirations of receiving her CNA certification. However, after joining the College Planning Cohort as a high school junior, she began to expand both her thinking and her aspirations. Despite being under the guardianship of her great grandmother and three older sisters, none of whom had graduated from college, Ashley began to believe that college was possible. As a result of expanding her thinking, she changed her mindset from being a good student to becoming an exceptional student. She sought out leadership roles, began pursuing more community service, and was committed to earning top grades in every class. In essence, she began to see the connections between each of these areas and her potential for not only being offered admission to college, but being offered a full scholarship to pay for college.
As the Superintendent of Schools, I know that when more of our students are vested in their futures and believe in their potential, we have safer schools, more engaged classrooms, fewer discipline infractions, and higher levels of mastery of the basics skills. I believe that this is the pathway toward higher levels of college readiness, college enrollment, and college completion—all of which are important data points. However, you do not have to believe me, just read their stories.
I will always be an advocate for the College Planning Cohort Program, because I have witnessed firsthand that students participating in the program are guided and supported in ways that our counselors are not trained to guide them. In our small community, I am constantly stopped in the grocery store by a parent who is not only thankful that their child has become the first in their family to attend college, but that they are doing so without being forced to finance their education with student loans.
Laura Hickson, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Florence School District 3
A Title I School District
Lake City, South Carolina
Table of Contents:
Foreword – Laura Hickson, Ed.D.
Foreword – Lewis Brinson, Ed.D.
Why This Book?
Why These Students?
Ashley – Benedict College
Brenna – Amherst College
Brianna – Howard University
Brittany – Spelman College
Damian – Northeastern University
De’Nyjhia – Benedict College
Jada – North Carolina A&T Honors College
Jason – University of South Carolina – Columbia
Jayla – Williams College
Jaylon – University of Chicago
Joanne – Johns Hopkins University
Joshua – Claflin University Honors College
Joshua – North Carolina A&T Honors College
Juliana – Williams College
Kimberly – Williams College
Loren – Williams College
Mikayla – University of Maryland – Baltimore County
Nina – Middle Tennessee State University
Omar – Brown University
Otis – Northeastern University
Parris – North Carolina A&T Honors College
Rebeca – Francis Marion University
Sydney – University of Chicago
Tiffani – Vassar College
Tyra – Georgia Tech
Xavier – Tuskegee University
Yuzu – Elon University
Full Scholarships and Video Links