IGNITE DAVIE College Promise Attracts Statewide Attention 

by | Nov 29, 2022

Robert Gunter videos IGNITE DAVIE program participants, students Kaisee Osborne, Merrit Killian, and Eden Hughes at a library table with laptops and human anatomy models.
(L to R) Robert Gunter videos Kaisee Osborne, Merrit Killian, and Eden Hughes

IGNITE DAVIE College Promise is changing the trajectory for Davie County students by offering them the opportunity to continue their education and training at Davidson-Davie Community College (DDCC) without incurring debt. That inspiring commitment is attracting statewide attention. IGNITE DAVIE was recently detailed in an article by EdNC and will be featured on an episode of PBS North Carolina’s program ncIMPACT sometime early next year. 

“IGNITE DAVIE is impacting the lives of our students and their families.  We are impacting the vitality of our community, the success of our employers, and the prosperity of our future generations!” said Carolyn McManamy, director of DavieCONNECT. “It is very rewarding to see that our program will serve as a model and inspiration to other communities across the state.

IGNITE DAVIE is a place-based last-dollar scholarship, which means students must live in and attend high school in Davie County.  All eligible high school graduates, regardless of financial need or academic ability, can continue their education and training to open the door to better career opportunities and increased earning potential. The program pays tuition, required fees, and a stipend for books for students to attend Davidson-Davie Community College full-time. Students may pursue a certificate, diploma, or associate/transfer program.

Since its inception, IGNITE DAVIE has opened the door to better career opportunities and increased earning potential for many students. Twenty-one students have graduated so far, and 160 are currently in the program. 

EducationNC (EdNC) reports on major trends, issues, and challenges related to education. Recently, Dean Drescher, director of strategic initiatives, traveled to DDCC to learn more about the hows and whys of IGNITE DAVIE. She toured the DDCC campus and interviewed Dr. Darrin Hartness, president of DDCC; Dr. Susan Burleson, executive vice president, Academic & Student Affairs of DDCC,  Carolyn McManamy, director of DavieCONNECT;  Jane Simpson, president & CEO of Davie Community Foundation, Ashley O’Donnell, Davie County’s coordinator for high school partnerships for DDCC; and Sandra Porter, director of student services for the Davie County campus of DDCC. You can read his article HERE

David Hurst, a producer/reporter with PBS North Carolina, also reached out to the college to learn more about how the collaborative IGNITE DAVIE program is making positive strides in the community. ncIMPACT, produced in partnership with the UNC School of Government and UNC Health, looks at how communities are coming up with innovative solutions to statewide issues. IGNITE DAVIE will be included in an upcoming episode about educational attainment featuring innovative programs across the state. 

Dr. Darrin Hartness in a light blue suit, sits in the library ready to be interviewed on video by David Hurst and David Gunter.
(L to R) Dr. Darrin Hartness is ready to be interviewed by David Hurst and Robert Gunter.

Hurst toured and videoed students in a welding and biology class and then interviewed some of the people involved with IGNITE DAVIE.  

IGNITE DAVIE is helping Merrit Killian take the first steps toward pursuing a future in healthcare. As a child, he often visited his mom, a nurse, at work and decided he wanted to follow in her footsteps. A biomedical technology class at Davie High solidified that interest. After he graduates from DDCC in the fall of 2023, he plans to attend NC State to study genetics and then hopes to attend medical school. 

“I would enroll in IGNITE DAVIE 100 times over again; it’s a great program!” said Killian. “Many students couldn’t afford to continue their education without its financial benefits. IGNITE DAVIE provides many opportunities for students like me to pursue education after high school, whether that be a technical or a transfer degree.  I’m very fortunate to be able to be a part of this program.”

Terry Bralley has served Davie County for 45 years as Mocksville’s town manager, county manager, and now as the president of the Davie County Economic Development Commission. He’s had a front-row seat to the need for education beyond high school. “We’ve got to give our young people the chance to develop a skill, to get into the workplace so that they can be responsible adults and earn a decent living.” 

“In today’s world, the workforce is key. Everyone is looking for workers, but they have to have certain skills. Today, technology rules the world. These young folks grew up with technology and probably know it better than anyone. We want to hone their skills for jobs in technology, healthcare, and the trades.”  

“IGNITE DAVIE offers a gateway to higher education for students who might not be able to afford it. It’s also a wonderful tool for attracting young families and a younger workforce to our community. Moving to our community and knowing that your children can get two years of education paid for is a huge bonus.” 

“The collaboration that made IGNITE DAVIE possible demonstrates that economic development is a team sport. It takes every player out there working together. No one person could have put this all together. All of us working together makes a huge difference,” Bralley concluded.   

(L to R) Robert Gunter and David Hurst prepare to interview Dr. Susan Burleson.
(L to R) Robert Gunter and David Hurst prepare to interview Dr. Susan Burleson.

Dr. Susan Burleson, executive vice president for academic and student affairs, shared the impact IGNITE DAVIE’s had on the college. Before IGNITE DAVIE, only about 8% of Davie High graduates attended DDCC. Now, three years into the program, that number has tripled. 

Although IGNITE DAVIE is open to any student, Dr. Burleson shared that the program particularly targets the third of students who weren’t pursuing any type of post-secondary education. “IGNITE DAVIE frees them up to receive an education without the financial burden,  which is leading to great results for our students.” 

“Our community did this. This was a homegrown effort from a lot of people with a lot of passion. We had a dream, and we went for it. I’m proud that we are creating bright futures for our students and employers. We are at a point where all students in Davie County will be able to take advantage of this opportunity in the future. Hopefully, this program will bring prosperity to these students, their families, and this community.” 

Dr. Darrin Hartness, president of Davidson-Davie Community College, explained that the concept for IGNITE DAVIE started in the fall of 2018 after a conversation with a visionary business leader, Zach Wright. 

“We knew that a lot of students in Davie County did not have a plan after high school, and we wanted to change that. We wanted to move the needle and change the conversation about college in this community, knowing that we needed an educated workforce and jobs in the future would require some type of post-secondary attainment.” 

“We looked at programs across the country and decided we wanted to do something similar but unique to Davie County. We wanted to have a program where any student who graduated from high school, whether the public high school or homeschool, and regardless of their family’s financial status, could come to Davidson-Davie Community College for two years and not worry about tuition and fees,” Dr. Hartness continued.  

“What we’ve seen with IGNITE DAVIE is that finances are clearly an issue. There were students who didn’t think college was a possibility. Now more students, thanks to IGNITE DAVIE, understand that college can be a reality. They can choose college and choose to continue their education after high school, and they can earn credentials, they can earn a degree, or they can earn transfer credits to a four-year school. The opportunities are unlimited.”  

(L to R) Carolyn McManamy, Jane Simpson, Sandra Porter, Ashley O’Donnell, Dean Drescher, Dr. Susan Burleson, and Dr. Darrin Hartness discuss IGNITE DAVIE College Promise.
(L to R) Carolyn McManamy, Jane Simpson, Sandra Porter, Ashley O’Donnell, Dean Drescher, Dr. Susan Burleson, and Dr. Darrin Hartness discuss IGNITE DAVIE College Promise.

“IGNITE DAVIE has changed the conversation about post-secondary education in Davie County. When you talk to a counselor from Davie High, they will tell you that the conversation about college has changed, not just two-year college or four-year college, but a conversation about learning a skill for a trade or skills that will help you get a better job for a better future. Those conversations are now happening in our middle schools and high school.” 

“I am excited to see our students thrive, to see them reach their personal goals, their academic goals, and their career goals, and then ultimately to see them come back to live and work in our community and reinvest in the next generation.”

IGNITE DAVIE has commitments of $2 million of the $3 million needed to endow the program. You can help raise the final $1 million to reach the goal and secure the promise! You can make a tax-deductible donation online at www.daviefoundation.org/donate. If you would prefer to make a gift via mail, please complete the donation form and submit it with your contribution. All checks should be made payable to the Davie Community Foundation with IGNITE DAVIE in the memo. Mail to IGNITE DAVIE Attn: Carolyn McManamy, 135 S. Salisbury Street, Suite 200, Mocksville, NC 27028. 

This article was published with the permission of the author and the original publisher, the Davie County Blog.