July 19, 2010

Working their way to pre-college

Byhalia High School teacher Stacy Filocco (center) helped her students Ashley Harvell and Takeva Hicks raise funds to attend Emory's Pre-College Program.

Two participants in this year’s Pre-College Program found a unique way to attend Emory’s two-week summer academic program for high school students: They spent the last six months fundraising in their hometown of Byhalia, Miss. Ashley Harvell and Takeva Hicks, both rising juniors at Byhalia High School, were encouraged to do so by their Spanish teacher, Stacy Filocco.

Filocco is the founder of Fund a Brighter Future, an organization designed to help low-income African American students from rural Mississippi attend college summer programs. Filocco hand-picked Hicks and Harvell because of their academic potential.

“Each distinguished themselves in my classes this year,” Filocco explains. “We don’t always have the time to celebrate students who are not just doing the right thing every day but who are excelling.”

Filocco encouraged the pair to raise money on their own — and they did. Fundraising included a dance, a wine and dessert reception, concession stands, a website and a supportive high school principal who allowed students to dress casually, rather than in uniform, for one day if they made a donation. After looking at several colleges, Hicks and Harvell felt Emory was the right choice.

“Although Emory was one of the closer schools to us geographically, I knew that it would provide great diversity in terms of the student body enrolled in the program,” Filocco says.

In the end, the pair raised almost enough to cover their tuition. Emory was able to support the girls’ fundraising by offering partial scholarships.

“The commitment and initiative that Ashley and Takeva have shown in their efforts to get here is inspiring,” says Philip Wainwright, associate dean of international and summer programs. “It is a goal of the Pre-College Program to broaden access as much as possible. I am very pleased that we were able to supplement the funds raised by the students themselves, and we are glad they were here and made their own contribution to the life of the program.

“When the Pre-College Program can be part of opening up opportunities for students who otherwise might not have had them, we know that the program is doing something very worthwhile.”

On orientation day, Harvell and Hicks missed the Pre-College airport shuttle, arriving on campus via MARTA with Filocco in tow. The first person they met at Emory was President Jim Wagner.

“He pulled up beside us and asked if we were lost. He gave us directions to Trimble Hall,” Hicks explains. “We had no idea at the time that he was the president!”

After two weeks studying “Psychology and Creativity” with Candler Professor of Psychology Marshall Duke, both Harvell and Hicks commented on how much they enjoyed the experience.

“I was impressed by how diverse the program is,” Harvell says. “I met people from all across the country, and that really changed my perspective. I learned a lot of people skills.”

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