Belk Endowment awards $10 million to add college advisers at NC high schools

01/16/2014 3:08 PM

01/16/2014 3:09 PM

The John M. Belk Endowment on Thursday announced it’s giving $10 million to the College Advising Corps to increase the numbers of young college advisers in rural high schools in North Carolina.

The three-year grant was a response to a call to action by the White House. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hosted a summit for college leaders, businesses and philanthropies who agreed to do something more to expand college opportunity.

Young graduates of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University and Davidson College will work as the advisers in 60 rural high schools. The leaders of the three schools were among the 80 college presidents and chancellors who attended the all-day summit at the White House.

“It’s very exciting for us because as you think of an institution like N.C. State, you know we have a reach across the entire state of North Carolina and have a history of serving the rural parts of the state. But it’s gotten so competitive to get into our university,” said Chancellor Randy Woodson said during a break at the education summit.

“So this College Advising Corps will really help not only NC State but the whole state to lift kids up in some of the most rural high schools in the state and help them understand what it takes to be successful, to get into a highly selective university like N.C. State _ what they need to do to be prepared but also what we can do to help them,” he added.

The John M. Belk Endowment said in a news release that it is taking on a new mission to increase access to education for low-income and other under-represented students. This year it plans to start awarding more than $13 million annually for this work.

“This is work is right in line with what the president and first lady are doing,” said Kristy Teskey, the new executive director of the Belk Endowment and one of a number of philanthropy leaders at the White House event.

The late John M. Belk, an alumnus of Davidson, was a mayor of Charlotte in the 1970s and CEO of Belk Inc., a department store company. His daughter, M.C. Pilon, the chair of the endowment, attended the White House event and said that her father was committed to education and workforce training.

Over 50 years in the department store business Belk was always concerned about finding a good workforce, Pilon said. “And when he became mayor he was looking for a workforce on a larger level so he set up this endowment to fund a scholarship program where he went to college because it impacted him in his life so much.”

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