The 2016 recipients of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Accelerate Greater Charleston (AGC) Scholarships will be honored during an award ceremony today.
Among the 75 recipients is North Charleston High School graduate Destiny Baldwin-Chisolm.
"I was surprised, but I was excited because nobody in my family has ever received a scholarship," Baldwin-Chisolm told the Palmetto Business Daily. "I plan on studying criminal justice with it and getting my associate degree in two years."
The AGC scholarship will pay for two years of tuition, fees and books at Trident Technical College. The scholarship program began after a 2014 study on skills gap in the area showed that employers were having difficulty finding skilled employees and were being forced to hire workers from outside the Charleston area.
At the same time, the chamber dramatically expanded their support of the school-within-a-school program known as career academies, which are centered on particular career fields and disciplines, from business to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to information technology. The chamber assists schools through a business partner program that ties the curriculum to the business world.
The chamber also set up a scholarship fund to enable career academy graduates to attend Trident Technical College for two-year associate degrees. The first 12 scholarships were awarded in 2014. Fifteen scholarships were awarded in 2015.
There were 160 applicants for the 2016 AGC scholarships and 75 were awarded to graduates with good work ethics in order to help them continue their education in career-related fields. The scholarship recipients are from the three largest school districts in the Charleston area, including several Title 1 schools.
"The target audience for our scholarships are graduates with a 2.0 to a 2.9 GPA," Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce Chief Advancement Officer Mary Graham told the Palmetto Business Daily. "The reason for that is if you have a B or higher average in South Carolina, you can qualify for lottery scholarship dollars. This is targeting a group of kids that don't necessarily qualify for any other money that’s out there to help them go to college."
Graham pointed out that A and B students have other scholarship and grant opportunities. The chamber is reaching out to the students who may not have been encouraged to go to college, but who it believes can succeed if given the opportunity to continue their education.
"About 70 percent of these kids are first-time family members to go to college," Graham said.
High school graduates entering the working world find that approximately one-third of job openings require an associate degree or certificate. The AGC scholarship provides the opportunity to attain the higher education needed to succeed in the business world.
AGC scholarship recipients like Baldwin-Chisolm have found that the scholarship eases the financial burden on the student and family.
"I was really happy," Baldwin-Chisholm said. "I didn't have any more stress on me. I didn't have to worry about taking loans. That money took the stress off my shoulders."
Baldwin-Chisolm wants to pursue a career with the FBI. After completing her associate degree, she plans on attending a four-year university.
"I really appreciate it, and I'm going to use it to the best of my ability," Baldwin-Chisolm said.
The 2016 recipients will be awarded their scholarships by Chamber President and CEO Bryan Derreberry during a ceremony at 10 a.m. at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, 4500 Leeds Ave.
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