Work in Burke Scholarship Night 2019 pic 1

Local students receive information at Scholarship Night.

VALDESE — Work in Burke and Burke County Public Schools hosted an event called, “Scholarship Night — How to Pay for College” on Monday, Sept. 30, at the Old Rock School in Valdese, engaging more than 100 families and high school seniors from across the county.

Many organizations, foundations, clubs and financial institutions shared information about available scholarships and how to access funding assistance. Presentations by Skip Watts, a representative of the College Foundation of North Carolina, and Juana Hernandez, Spanish services manager, helped students and parents understand the financial aid process.

“We’re so thankful for our partners and the many organizations that participated,” said Tea Yang, program coordinator for Work in Burke. “Our goal is to make sure every Burke County student has access to post-secondary education, while at the same time minimizing the amount of school debt they will carry.”

Yang stressed that families need to make sure they follow through with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application as early as possible to maximize the amount of aid a student receives.

“Colleges give out money on a first-come-first-serve basis and may have their own deadlines for grants,” Yang said. “The longer you wait, the less you get and then you’ll end up accumulating more school debt.”

As a follow-up to Scholarship Night, GEAR UP and Burke County Public Schools will host “What’s Next Family Nights” for seniors at every high school. They will have open computer labs and assistance available to work on the FAFSA, RDS and applications.

“We are excited to offer these nights to families to help them plan for ‘What’s Next’ after high school,” said Jessica Stockham, GEAR UP coordinator.

Stockham said there also will be informational and question-and-answer sessions held during these nights, which will include information on college and university tracks, scholarships, community college programs and military and career pathways. Students will have the opportunity to meet representatives from various community college programs, colleges and universities, the military and NC Works.

The events are free and open to all Burke County high school seniors. Family Night took place at Patton High School on Monday, Oct. 7. Additional sessions will take place from 6-7:30 p.m. at Draughn High School on Tuesday, Oct. 8; East Burke High School on Tuesday, Oct. 15; and at Freedom High School on Monday, Oct. 21. For more information, visit

For further assistance with completing the FAFSA, whether you plan to attend Western Piedmont Community College or another two or four-year institution, WPCC offers “FAFSA Fridays” each Friday from 2:30-4 p.m. and also will host “FAFSA Day” from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 26. When attending an event to work on your FAFSA, it is highly recommended that both the student and a parent are present.

For more information, call the WPCC Financial Aid Office at 828-448-6046 or visit

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