Despite her daily home struggles, 13-year-old Asparrow found the inspiration to write the pivotal story that would get her on the road to college.
As a sixth grade student at Albemarle Road Middle School in Charlotte, N.C., Asparrow Hargro-Cole described herself as very shy and timid. Her mother struggled with substance abuse, leaving Asparrow and her brothers to figure out on their own what to eat, what to wear and how to get to school. She didn’t know who she could talk to about the problems she faced at home, and so stayed quiet.
It wasn’t until Asparrow’s guidance counselor referred her to Communities In Schools of Charlotte Site Coordinator Ki’Yonna Brown that she felt like she could open up and talk about the obstacles she faced.
“It was like a breath of fresh air,” the young woman said. “She was a person who I could look up to. I didn’t feel like I could trust and talk to people, but I could talk to Ms. Brown.”
Brown dedicated herself to helping the young woman with her tumultuous home life. Through Communities In Schools of Charlotte, Asparrow and her siblings, who now live with their grandmother, have received food, school supplies and uniforms. Asparrow also participates in a self-esteem group for girls and gets to go on cultural enrichment field trips, including visits to the opera and zoo.
When the site coordinator first met Asparrow, she recognized her intelligence and drive and enrolled her in the affiliate’s Kid to College program. For eight weeks, Kid to College teaches sixth graders about higher education and why it’s often essential for future success. During the program, participating students also go on a college tour.
“When I found out what college was about I immediately wanted to go,” Asparrow said.
Brown knew that for the student’s dream to become a reality, she would need financial aid. So when she learned about the Friedland Foundation scholarship, she urged Asparrow, now in eighth grade, to write an essay about her desire to go to college and make a positive difference in the lives of others. The Friedland Foundation scholarship provides four years of tuition expenses to a state college or university of the winner’s choice, as well as a one-on-one mentor for the next five years.
“She’s had a journey, to say the least,” Brown said. “Asparrow wrote her first draft and I asked her to go a little deeper, and in talking together we figured out what she could say.”
Initially, the young woman found it tiring to write about her struggles at home and with her mother. But as Asparrow wrote the essay, she found an inner strength.
“I showed myself things I didn’t know about myself; it kind of brought me to another point,” she said.
Last Spring, Asparrow was informed that she won the scholarship. Brown was coming back from a trip to Germany when the announcement was made, but literally started jumping for joy when she heard the news.
“I felt an incomparable joy. There are no words to really describe it,” Brown said.
While college is still a few years away for the 13-year-old, Asparrow already knows what she wants to study.
“I want to be a counselor,” she said. “I want to be able to help people talk about substance abuse problems and put families back together.”