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For nearly 50 years, Project Uplift has enabled high-achieving rising high school seniors to experience college life on Carolina’s campus. Each summer, between 1,000 and 2,000 participants live on campus for three days, interacting with faculty, staff and current students, engaging in educational, cultural and social activities and learning about admissions and college affordability. Students experience learning in a variety of different contexts, from large lectures to small seminars and – most importantly – from their interactions with current Carolina students.

To celebrate the success of this program, the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion, the PU50 Advisory Board and the University Development Office are embarking on an ambitious goal of raising $1.5 million to support expansion of the program’s reach to a greater number of participants. In addition, this development goal aims to provide increased support for the Uplift PLUS Scholars Initiative, an extension of Project Uplift that allows students to live on campus for five weeks, complete the English 100 course, obtain ACT/SAT coaching, admissions prep and more. To that end, the first regional event to kick off the fundraising plan was held in Atlanta, GA, on Nov. 14. The event was hosted by PU50 Advisory Board Members and Fundraising Committee Chairs, Dr. Archie Ervin and Angelia Duncan at Ms. Duncan’s law firm, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, LLP.

Project Uplift participantsSuccess stories abound regarding student experiences at Project Uplift and Uplift PLUS. Consider Alton Peques’ experience. Alton, who hails from Sanford, NC, was one of the first participants of Uplift Plus in 2014. Alton is now a senior at UNC, majoring in advertising and thriving because of the preparation he received at Uplift PLUS. He was recently crowned Mr. UNC and has been a leader on and off campus. He is currently the president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council at UNC, senior advisor and former vice president and treasurer of the Black Student Movement, chief justice of the UNC Student Body Supreme Court, and founder and creative director of his own advertising company, Peques + Company. He has interned with Bank of America, NASCAR and Harvard University and credits his success to Uplift PLUS.

“Uplift PLUS served as a life-changing experience and comprehensive introduction to the life of a college student,” said Alton. “This program prepared me for the rigor and demands of this institution academically and socially. Being a college student requires you to learn how to deal with adversity, collaborate with people of different backgrounds and challenge your intellectual capabilities. In just one summer, Uplift PLUS allows you to forge relationships and experiences that prepare you for this journey.”

Currently, Uplift PLUS hosts approximately 36 participants each summer. To date, 116 students have participated in the program. Success is in the numbers: from the 2017 cohort, 94% of Uplift PLUS participants were admitted to the University. Of those students, 91% of them are currently enrolled (as opposed to 61% yielded by Admissions in the same year). In comparison, Admissions yielded 61% of NC admits in the same year.

However, not all participants at Uplift PLUS are able to apply what they’ve learned from the program by attending UNC. Alexandria participated in Uplift PLUS in 2016 and was admitted to UNC. But she wound up matriculating elsewhere because she was offered a scholarship – something that UNC did not provide. Because of UNC’s financial aid practice and commitment to meeting nearly 100% of need for every student, there is little left for merit scholarships and only five percent of the incoming class receives merit-based financial aid. The Uplift PLUS Scholars Initiative, intended for only those students who participated in Uplift PLUS and are admitted to UNC, aims to change that. The initiative would allow the University to enroll these talented students from underrepresented backgrounds and build on the excitement and excellence of the PU program.

The PU50 campaign aims to raise funds to better support the Altons and Alexandrias of the world and continue another 50 years so that their children may also eventually become a part of the Project Uplift family and, hopefully, become Tar Heels.

Donations can be made here.

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