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Editor’s Note: The University of North Carolina Academic and University Programs Division releases its annual report this week. Great Teachers and School Leaders Matter surveys the work of the Division and UNC’s fifteen educator preparation programs that are focused on the University’s goal of preparing more, higher quality teachers and school leaders for North Carolina’s public schools. EdNC will be highlighting the report’s profiles of teachers, school leaders, programs, and partnerships from across the state as part of a nine-part series. The full report is available here.

Chase Schultz grew up in Mayodan in Rockingham County, North Carolina. Mayodan is a rural community of 2,500 near the Virginia border with a rich textile history and the beauty of its namesakes, the two rivers that converge nearby, the Mayo and the Dan. However, it has suffered from the economic downturn. Six percent of Rockingham County’s citizens are unemployed, leaving nearly 25 percent of families living below the poverty level. Only nine percent of adults have completed at least a bachelor’s degree.

Growing up, Chase was acutely aware of a disconnect between his community and his determination to attend college. The Rockingham County Schools had one of the highest dropout rates in North Carolina – four percent of high school students, nearly double the state average, left school before graduation.

Video: What were your plans for your future before GEAR UP?

In 2008, as a student at Dalton McMichael High School in the Rockingham County Schools, Chase experienced many positive changes. The leadership of the school district and Dalton McMichael High School communicated a focus on high expectations and future goals with the following mission:“to be a student-centered school that meets the academic, emotional, and social needs of all learners while preparing them to be productive citizens who enter college or the workforce with 21st Century skills.”

To achieve this mission for the 1,000 students of Dalton McMichael, the leadership, teachers, and staff analyzed and responded to a variety of data to understand how to best measure achievement and support student growth and well-being. Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs North Carolina (GEAR UP NC) joined this effort and brought awareness of college opportunities and, for Chase and many of his classmates, cemented their goals of succeeding in high school and attending college.

Video: What did GEAR UP do for students in your district?

GEAR UP NC is a grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Education to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education by providing support services to high-need middle and high schools. But GEAR UP North Carolina advisors did more than just describe the opportunity – they made it possible. In a graduating class of more than 200, six students from Dalton McMichael High attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Chase.

Chase credits his advancement to the knowledge and initiative of his GEAR UP NC college advisors. “They were amazing! The whole school became part of getting us to college. In English class, all of us were required to submit college applications and apply for scholarships during free application days. The GEAR UP NC advisor also held one-on-one meetings to help us complete our Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). We went on college visits all over North Carolina – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Wake Forest University, and many more. Before the tours, all we knew was our favorite basketball stars, but on the tours we actually learned about the campuses. We really started to see ourselves in college!”

Video: How else does GEAR UP help students?

For Chase and many of his classmates, the work of their school leadership, teachers, staff, and GEAR UP NC advisors expanded their belief in their abilities and their future. As Chase described, “I thought I wanted to go to college. I didn’t know what I wanted to study or what I wanted to be. I learned that everybody has options and talents – some kids in my class wanted to go to vocational training days, some to community college, and some to college. As soon I visited, I knew I really wanted to go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”

As a sophomore business major, Chase has explored interests in information technology and education policy. He is currently studying and working at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler School of Business and continuing to find that “there is so much to explore in college!”

Video: The state of education in North Carolina.


Great Teachers and School Leaders Matter Series

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Katie B. Morris

Part 3: Yolanda Black

Part 4: Jeff Vamvakias

Part 5: New Teacher Support Program

Part 6: Diana B. Lys

Part 7: Steve Lassiter

Part 8: Chase Schultz

Part 9: University and Community Partnerships