I have spent my whole life in a community where the prospect of a college education was an assumption, and I have had little experience in schools with less affluent students, so when Chris Scribner, a teacher at Jemison High School, offered me the chance to participate in The Cap and Gown Project, I was really excited. The program opened my eyes to the incredible students and teachers at Jemison.
Working with the program, I got to plan two of their trips. The first was over Fall Break. We traveled up along the East Coast, visiting colleges along the way. The second trip, over Spring Break, brought us up to Tennessee, down through Mississippi to New Orleans, and then up through Alabama on our way home.
The Cap and Gown Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. As stated on their website, the program seeks provide transformative opportunities for underrepresented secondary school students in Huntsville who wish to pursue college. Of the 40 Jemison students who participated in the Cap & Gown this year, 100% were accepted into college, many with full academic scholarships, including acceptances at Georgetown, Sewanee, and Berea.
As acceptance letters and scholarship offers are rolling in, and Cap and Gown students are preparing to start the next chapter of their lives, I am continuously struck by how hard they have worked to get here. On top of academics and athletics, many students hold side jobs during the school year while continuing to strive for academic achievement.
Through C&G, I got to meet a few teachers who did Teach for America and they helped me realize the power of programs like that, which really sparked my interest in social work as an additional aspect of my interests in psychology and medicine.
I learned that although there are amazing teachers and students at Jemison, there are also disturbing disparities in opportunity. I’d like to learn more about this in the future and for now I look forward to continuing to work with Cap and Gown.
Virginia applied for and received a grant from the School to help with costs for Cap & Gown’s Spring Break college tour. This fund was established by a Randolph family to support student projects that benefit the Huntsville community. Virginia was interviewed about the grant by WHNT.
This story is from a series of thumbnail portraits in the forthcoming Spring 2017 Randolph Magazine, in a feature titled “Learning in the Community: Transformative Experiences.” The student portraits that accompany these profiles were created in an editorial photography project in Peter Townsend’s Advanced Photography class. Virginia was photographed by Zahra Hassan ’18. Other images: Cap and Gown scholar Isiah and Virginia at Tulane; Virginia and Jessica, Jemison '17, who will be a freshman at Stillman next year