Gamecock Guarantee graduates 1st class
By Megan Sexton, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-1421
Shannon Schoultz worried about making the transition to college, leaving her home in tiny Beech Island, S.C., in Aiken County and moving to a large university in the state’s capital city.
“Through these programs, you have an at-home atmosphere in a large university. It creates a family away from home for you,” Schoultz said. “A lot of my graduating class from high school went off to college and didn’t stay long. They moved back home.”
Not so for Schoultz, who will graduate from USC this weekend with a degree in sports and entertainment management. She’ll be heading to law school at American University in Washington in the fall, and she hopes to work as an attorney for a nonprofit community service agency.
She credits the Gamecock Guarantee program – which offers low-income, first-generation college students from South Carolina financial incentives and an academic support structure – for her success at Carolina.
“As the state’s flagship university, it’s our obligation to ensure that a Carolina degree is accessible to all qualified students of South Carolina, not just those with the family means to afford an education,” said Dennis Pruitt, USC’s vice president for student affairs. “The Gamecock Guarantee supports students who have the academic ability and intellect, but need the opportunity to succeed at the university. These are students who are members of our Honors College and Capstone Scholars program, leaders of service organizations and winners of research competitions. With the program’s support, financial need is no longer a barrier to these students’ successes, and it no longer prevents the university from being enriched by their talents.”
The first graduating class of Gamecock Guarantee recipients will walk across the stage this weekend at USC’s commencement exercises. Of the 93 original Gamecock Guarantee students who started as freshmen four years ago, 52 will graduate this year, a four-year graduation rate on par with the rest of the student body and ahead of the low-income student national average.
The key, according to Paul Beasley, director of USC’s TRIO Opportunity Scholars Program, is giving students the tools and the opportunities to succeed.
“Our goal is to provide a community of support in the Opportunity Scholars Program,” Beasley said. “Bringing them into a structured environment is the most important thing we do. Our goal is to help these students take advantage of opportunities on campus.”
That means small classes in their first years at USC, a dedicated faculty working with Opportunity Scholars and Gamecock Guarantee students and encouragement to form productive relationships with faculty and peers. Gamecock Guarantee recipients in the Honors College and Capstone Scholars program receive similar support.