Meeting Street Scholarship’s inaugural class goes to college with hope

Story by Courtney Williams / August 4, 2021

Brian Hicks | Post and Courier

The four college-bound freshmen sat on a small stage, recalling the things that had brought them there.

Their stories were similar, whether they came from Stall High, James Island Charter, West Ashley or Wando. They all had GPAs north of 4.0, which they’d kept up throughout the advanced placement classes, the extracurricular activities, the part-time jobs they juggled alongside life’s general struggles.

A guidance counselor or someone in their family — a mother, an aunt or sibling — had pushed them to apply for a new scholarship that would allow them to pursue a college degree without taking on crushing debt. Some were skeptical, worried that despite all that hard work, it wouldn’t be enough.

“I got all A’s, well except for one B,” noted Tre’Shauna Williams, a West Ashley High graduate.

They were all just as impressive as Williams. And in a few weeks, they head off to college: Nine to Claflin, 29 to Clemson, a dozen to Winthrop, 24 to the University of South Carolina and 20 to the College of Charleston. One’s off to Columbia College; another will attend Furman. It felt a bit like graduation, but their journey is just beginning.

On Sunday, the first recipients of the Meeting Street Scholarships gathered on Daniel Island for brunch in their honor. And there were a lot of them. Nearly 100 Charleston County School District graduates qualified for the inaugural scholarship fund established by local philanthropists Ben and Kelly Navarro.

The scholarships provide $10,000 a year to any student who graduates from a Charleston County public school eligible for both a state education lottery LIFE scholarship, which is based on academic achievement, and a federal Pell Grant, which is based on financial need.

It’s an idea the Navarros just announced in December when these students were almost finished with the first semester of their senior year. “You didn’t know the scholarship would be here, but you did the work anyway,” Ben Navarro told the group. “I hope you’ll be optimistic about your future. I’m rooting for you.”

The Navarros are not only cheering on these young people, they’ve changed their lives. You see, lottery scholarships and Pell Grants won’t even cover tuition at most four-year colleges these days. And then there’s the ever-increasing cost of housing, food, and books.

For many people, higher education is simply impossible without going deeply into debt. The average person graduates college today owing nearly $30,000. But for these students, the Meeting Street Scholarships cover that gap.

“This scholarship was truly a blessing for me,” said Ivy Grinnage, a recent graduate of Early College High, who’s going to Winthrop to become a secondary education teacher. “This … takes away that stress of how are we going to pay for this.”

The 96 graduates who qualified for these scholarships this year represent a nearly $1 million investment from the Navarros — and that’s only for the first year. It’s impressive, but not surprising. The couple long ago proved their commitment to public education.

In 2008, the Navarros started Meeting Street Schools in Charleston. This public-private partnership with the school district was designed to overcome the opportunity gap, and it’s been a heartening success. The model began with Meeting Street Academy, which is privately funded and has since expanded to Meeting Street Elementary @Brentwood and Burns Elementary, both public-private partnerships in North Charleston.

The success of their model is apparent in test scores. Meeting Street Academy Charleston students score on average in the 96th percentile on reading and the 94th percentile on math in state MAP testing. At Brentwood, students score in the 61st percentile on reading and the 75th percentile on math. Most Title I students in North Charleston score in the 23rd percentile.

“It’s the great equalizer,” U.S. Sen. Tim Scott said Sunday. “Meeting Street schools have shown that all kids have the ability to learn.”

These scholarships are the next step in the Navarros’ efforts to improve public education. Ben Navarro said the point behind the scholarships isn’t righting any economic wrong; it’s about growing the pie — giving more people a chance to succeed.

On Sunday morning, the Grand Lawn at LTP Daniel Island was filled with future teachers, engineers, and surgeons who were cheered on by their families, Charleston County School Board members and state lawmakers.

It was a scene that, in these dark times, inspires a little hope. And that’s appropriate because that’s just what the Navarros have given these young scholars.

 

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About Meeting Street Schools

Meeting Street Schools (MSS) is an innovative non-profit where schools, families, and the community collaborate to create environments where all children can achieve their full potential. With a network of schools across South Carolina, including MSA-Charleston (Charleston, SC), MSA-Spartanburg (Spartanburg, SC), MS-Brentwood (North Charleston, SC), MS-Burns (North Charleston, SC), and MS-Jasper & Beaufort (Jasper, SC), we are committed to providing students with the rigorous education they deserve.

Founded on the principle that every child deserves an excellent education regardless of their socio-economic background, Meeting Street Schools has been a beacon of hope and a testament to what's possible in education. Our schools are driven by a strong focus on student achievement, evidence-based instruction, and relentless support of our students and their families.

While united by our shared mission, each MSS campus, is unique in its character, tapping into the local spirit of the communities they serve. Explore each of our schools and discover how they're creating a brighter future for students in South Carolina.

News & NotesFrom Clemson University to Master Teacher and Player Coach: Emily Godwin

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Our Schools

MSA – CharlestonDowntown Charleston, SC - Independent School - Since 2008 - 364 Students

Nestled in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina, MSA Charleston is more than just a school—it’s a hub for innovative learning and community engagement. As part of the Meeting Street Schools network, MSA Charleston embodies a commitment to excellence through its rigorous academic programs, inclusive culture, and focus on developing the whole child. With a curriculum that emphasizes both academic and personal growth, MSA Charleston prepares students to be curious learners and active citizens of their community.

MSA – SpartanburgDowntown Spartanburg, SC - Public School - Since 2012 - 323 Students

MSA Spartanburg stands as a pillar of educational innovation in the Spartanburg community. The school’s dedicated educators and supportive learning environment ensure that each child receives a high-quality, personalized education with exceptional faculty and teachers. MSA Spartanburg is distinguished by its emphasis on community partnership, fostering relationships that extend beyond the classroom to build a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success.

MS – BrentwoodNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2014 - 694 Students

MS Brentwood is a place where education meets opportunity. Serving the Brentwood area, this school is a testament to the transformative power of education. With a student-centered approach that celebrates diversity and encourages excellence, MS Brentwood is dedicated to equipping students with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. MS Brentwood also serves as a hub for the Brentwood community to access educational and wellness services. The school’s commitment to innovation, coupled with a warm, welcoming environment, makes it a standout in the MSS network.

MS – BurnsNorth Charleston, SC - Public School - Since 2018 - 478 Students

Located in a community rich with history and culture, MS Burns is renowned for its dynamic educational approach that intertwines traditional learning with modern teaching techniques. The school’s focus on experiential learning ensures that students at MS Burns are not only recipients of knowledge but also active participants in their educational journey. MS Burns exists to spark an educational revolution for the students and families in the Dorchester-Waylyn Neighborhood in North Charleston. With a commitment to creating a supportive and challenging academic environment, MS Burns is forging a new path in public education.

MS – Jasper & BeaufortJasper County, SC - Public Charter School - Fall 2023 -

MS Jasper represents the Meeting Street Schools’ dedication to community-based education with a global perspective. The school provides a nurturing environment where students are encouraged to explore their potential and cultivate a love for learning. With its diverse programs such as Eureka Math, and Wit and Wisdom, MS Jasper puts a major emphasis on character development, specialized learning and equips students to become thoughtful, engaged members of society, reflecting the MSS ethos of empowerment through education.

CommunityVoices

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“We come into work everyday truly believing that our students are capable of achieving anything that is put in front of them. Here at MSS, students are provided the opportunity to achieve success through the facilitation of well-educated teachers, resources, and a responsive classroom school environment.”

— NikToshia GilesTeacher

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“MSA is a family. Once you’re in, you’re in. They said they would follow our kids from K-3 to college and they actually lived up to what they said they would do. Not only did MSA challenge my daughter academically but it also exposed her to new things that she probably wouldn’t have been exposed to at our previous neighborhood school. Our journey at MSA was exciting and rewarding. They actually walk the walk.”

— Tyeka GrantParent

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“Meeting Street Academy is my family. They taught me that I am valuable. I am an asset to the world…They asked me, ‘What is your dream?’ I had never been asked that before. The MSS community gives me the strength to pursue my dreams.”

— Kadelyn SteedStudent