C-STEP helps dreams come true

Even when life was at its toughest, Brooklyn Young never gave up on her ultimate goal: a degree from a four-year university.

Young became homeless at age 16 after her mother died of cervical cancer. She managed to complete high school while living with a series of friends and never lost sight of her dreams. But she didn’t have a roadmap to get there until she discovered Carolina’s C-STEP program. C-STEP – the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program – helps talented low-to-moderate income students gain admission to Carolina from seven North Carolina community colleges.

“With C-STEP, there was a course and a plan that helped me to be organized, and it helped me to set my goals and understand where it was going,” Young says.

A four-year degree was also out of reach for Brian Woodard until he discovered C-STEP. “My dad was disabled and he left work because he had gotten Parkinson’s disease, so we were barely making it,” Woodard says. “But this program shows that there are people out there who will help you if you just work hard and do what you’ve got to do.”

Through C-STEP, Woodard transferred from Alamance Community College and earned his degree in history from Carolina in 2009. He’s now a master’s student in the School of Education, studying to be a high school guidance counselor.

“A lot of the students that we have are not students that would have typically seen themselves going to a four-year university right off,” says Melinda Rouse, a C-STEP program advisor at Carteret Community College in Morehead City.

C-STEP guarantees students admission to Carolina if they keep a 3.0 grade point average in community college and fulfill other requirements. As part of the program, the students receive academic advising, leadership training and enrichment activities.

“A lot of the people come into the community college or don’t go straight to the 4-year universities because of income issues,” Rouse says. “The family may not have saved enough money, the father or the mother may have lost a job.”

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation provided the initial funding for C-STEP. Thanks to support from the Triad Foundation and individual donors, the program has expanded to other parts of North Carolina. Community colleges in Carteret, Craven, Lee and Cumberland counties have joined Alamance Community College, Durham Technical Community College and Wake Technical Community College in offering the C-STEP program to students.

Read more about C-STEP.