Boys & Girls Club of Henderson County provides pathway to higher education
Over the past year, the Boys & Girls Club of Henderson County (BGCHC) has returned to pre-pandemic levels of engagement, serving more than 1,000 young people in western North Carolina. The Club seeks to prepare its young members to succeed in their future college and career paths. But college prep needs to begin before a student’s senior year of high school. The Club helps students as young as elementary school envision a future that includes higher education.
“We are starting to see kids prepare and plan for their future at a much younger age than we ever had in the past,” says BGCHC Outcomes Director Kris Schafer.
This vision for student success is especially evident in Project Hope, a program that provides college planning support and financial aid opportunities for youth to pursue secondary education. In spring 2023, Project Hope celebrated its graduating class of 14 seniors who have committed to seven North Carolina colleges and universities in the fall. Project Hope now serves more than 75 youth, from college first-years all the way down to eighth graders.
The work is not without its challenges. The heavy lift of Project Hope is individual case work, helping students and their families navigate the daunting college admissions process. The challenges of this process, especially for first generation college students, have shown why the program is so necessary.
“I don’t know if a lot of these families would have been able to navigate some of these challenges on their own,” said Schafer.
Project Hope participant Troy, who is a senior in high school, says the program has helped him focus on his future and how to get there.
“They have helped me study for the ACT, practice writing my college essay, and most importantly pay for school,” said Troy. “I don’t know how I’d do it otherwise.”
Being part of the IEI Educational Attainment community cohort has also helped BGCHC staff network, strategize and brainstorm new ideas for its programs.
“We made a lot of fantastic connections with the other agencies in IEI, and I think we always leave our cohort meetings with some really great ideas,” said Schafer.
Boys and Girls Club of Henderson County is one of five community-based organizations chosen by IEI as part of the 2022 Emerging Issues Forum community cohort on educational attainment in NC.