UNCP School of Education awarded $2.9M to provide scholarships to 30 future educators


The School of Education at UNC Pembroke has received a record $2.9 million grant from the Anonymous Trust that will fund student scholarships for 30 future educators and transform the lives of generations of students in rural and underserved communities.

The School of Education will use the gift—the largest in the school’s history for student scholarships—to launch the Brave Scholars program, an initiative designed to recruit new teachers from Robeson, Scotland and Columbus counties.

The Brave Scholars program will address the state’s growing teacher shortage by targeting high-need areas, including elementary and exceptional children’s specialties. In addition to tuition and fees, recipients who commit to teaching in their home county will receive a one-year stipend for living expenses. The program also pays for on-campus living, a global trip, conferences, a learning community and exam fees.

“We are grateful for the partnership of the Anonymous Trust to provide this incredible pathway into the education system of the three counties in the grant,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings.

“The Brave Scholars program will be transformative for these 30 students. Through the education these future teachers and administrators receive at UNCP, they will go on to impact and influence countless lives and communities where they will teach and lead in NC school systems for generations to come. What a wonderful testament to the historical role of UNCP in teacher education.”

Two cohorts of 15 students will be accepted beginning fall 2023. The program is for elementary and special education majors.

Incentives are needed to draw more students to the teaching profession, especially in North Carolina, which has long struggled to fill key teacher vacancies­­—a crisis made even worse by the pandemic.

“Hopefully, this program will serve as a reward and pull in those students and extend that opportunity for them to pursue a degree and embark on a career in teaching,” said UNCP Trustee Alphonzo McRae. 

“It is hopeful for me that this additional funding will signify our real interest in expanding the education program at UNCP. While there are other professions in which the reward or pay may be greater, there are still folks interested in serving in the capacity of teaching. I’m excited about the possibilities of this program and how it will change lives,” McRae said.

Anonymous Trust serves rural and underserved communities in eastern North Carolina. For Senior Program Officer Kimberly Breeden, the transformative partnership with UNCP is personal. Breeden grew up in Scotland and Robeson counties and her mother, the late Dora Locklear Breeden, earned a teaching degree from UNCP and went on to teach elementary and middle school.

“We are so excited to partner with UNC Pembroke’s School of Education to support its Brave Scholars program to create enthusiasm for the teaching profession in rural communities,” Breeden said.

“Since its inception, the Anonymous Trust has operated under the belief that all children deserve access to quality education, and educators deserve access to opportunities often only afforded to teachers in urban districts. Well-trained, passionate teachers shape the learning trajectory of a child,” she said.

The scholars program is intended to assist graduates and new teachers with mentoring and induction into their early careers and ensure they reach their full potential in these local districts.

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, who was on campus recently meeting with School of Education leaders, said the historic gift would enable the state to continue building and growing the teacher pipeline.

“This is an incredible opportunity to support our future teachers through scholarship,” Truitt said. “Teachers are difference-makers in the lives of students, in schools and communities. The impact of this announcement will be felt for decades to come, as it will help meet critical teaching needs in our rural districts while building a strong foundation of future teacher leaders who will inspire a countless number of North Carolina students.”

Dr. Loury Floyd, dean of the School of Education, said finances are one of the major barriers many students in our region face when considering higher education and a teaching career.

“Through this charitable grant, the Anonymous Trust is removing challenges and opening doors of opportunity for many first-generation, promising future teachers,” Floyd said. 

This grant follows the return of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program to the School of Education, Floyd explained. “As a minority-serving institution, we play a pivotal role in preparing highly effective, diverse educators who are equipped to succeed in rural classrooms.”

Each year, nearly 200 teacher candidates at UNCP fulfill their student teaching requirements in partner schools, with almost all serving in poverty-impacted, culturally diverse southeast North Carolina schools.

“Our UNCP alumni are leading change in schools throughout southeast North Carolina, many serving as superintendents, principals, and in other senior-level administrative roles. As we prepare to admit our first cohort in the fall of 2023, we are proud to count our Braves Scholars among our future alumni,” Floyd said. 

The gift announcement comes on the 135th anniversary of the founding of UNCP which was established to train teachers for the region.

“It is wonderful to renew that partnership with this extraordinary grant,” said Steve Varley, vice chancellor of Advancement. “UNCP has always been an engine for progress in our region by educating new teachers. This groundbreaking investment will help build the pipeline of the next generation of teacher leadership.”

For additional information about the Braves Scholars program, contact Dr. Leslie Locklear at leslie.locklear@uncp.edu.