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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this past weekend celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Carolina Covenant, a groundbreaking initiative that provides a debt-free education to students from low-income families who earn admission to the University.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt and Honorary Covenant Chair and men’s basketball coach Roy Williams welcomed Covenant alumni and supporters of the program to a dinner in Wilson Library Saturday evening.

Calling the Covenant’s launch “a nation-leading moment,” Folt praised the program’s accomplishments – more than 5,000 students have benefited from it – and the University’s commitment to socioeconomic diversity.

“‘Covenant’ literally means promise,” Folt said. “It’s a promise that we have always made, that Carolina’s worthy students are granted admission regardless of financial status. It is part of who we are.”

Williams said that as the first member of his family to attend college, he could have benefited from the Covenant. In the years since its launch, he has remained committed to its success.

“This program is close to my heart,” he said.

Covenant alumnus Matthew Stoeckley of Fayetteville, N.C., gave the evening’s keynote address, speaking of his gratitude for the program.

“I was taught from an early age to value education,” said Stoeckley, who graduated in 2012. “My parents assured me that if I applied myself each day, got the right grades and never missed school then I would reach my dream of attending college. So I did. I did not miss a day of school from pre-K to high school graduation. I took AP and Honors-level classes and did well in them. But there was one barrier that my efforts could not easily overcome: how to pay for college.”

After earning his UNC-Chapel Hill degree in psychology, Stoeckley went on to earn a master’s degree in counseling from Boston College. He returned to Fayetteville to become a guidance counselor at Pine Forest High School.

“Carolina Covenant made it possible for me to not only pursue a valuable education, but also allowed me to engage in a sort of cultural exchange with the Covenant and non-Covenant scholars alike,” he said. “I was given the chance to be exposed to new ways of thinking and to challenge who I am as a person. And my presence on campus challenged others to think more critically about how the culture in which they live impacts their opportunities, expectations and experiences. It is my hope that as a school counselor, I am able to help my students to bridge that gap – to become the first in their family to go to college and to use that knowledge to improve the lives of those in their home community.”

The dinner was the second celebration event of the weekend. Friday, Provost James W. Dean, Jr., welcomed Covenant students, alumni and mentors to an open house held in Kenan Stadium’s Blue Zone.

By Hope Baptiste and Claire Cusick, Office of University Advancement

Published October 27, 2014