PC Welcomes Students to First Annual Jacobs Scholars Day

March 1, 2023

Presbyterian College welcomed students impacted by foster care to campus during the first annual Jacobs Scholars Day on Feb. 20.

Two dozen prospective students, 17 legal guardians, and four social workers came to PC for an in-depth experience with the newly-implemented program.

The Jacobs Scholars Program is named for PC and Thornwell Orphanage founder Rev. William Plumer Jacobs and is part of the college’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion division. Jacobs Scholars are provided full direct costs for tuition, room, and board, less federal, state, and private scholarships. The program also offers wrap-around support services, including academic and mental health support, alumni mentors, faculty advocates, and special programming. The first cohort of Jacobs Scholars will be admitted this fall.

In his welcome to the group, college president Dr. Matthew vandenBerg highlighted numerous opportunities for students who come to PC, including the new restaurant and social hub, 112, and the esports program housed at the Capitol Theatre in Laurens.

The Jacobs Scholars Program is another reason PC is distinct from other colleges, vandenBerg said.

“PC is home to the nation’s most thoughtfully comprehensive college support system for students who have experienced foster care at some points in their lives,” he said. “It is prestigious at PC to become a member of the Jacobs Scholars Program. It is a real badge of honor and it’s tied to our history. Working with students who have experienced foster care at some point is actually in the DNA of this place. It’s in the soul of Presbyterian College.”

President vandenBerg explained that the college was founded in 1880 as an extension of the orphanage Jacobs founded to provide a college education for Civil War orphans.

“We have prided ourselves on giving thoughtful support to students who have lost one or both parents and helping them to be successful not only in college, but also all throughout their lives,” he said.

In addition to learning about PC’s admissions process, financial aid, academic programming, and career and professional development opportunities, students also discovered what being in a PC classroom is like. Dr. Selena Blair, the Rogers-Ingram Vice President for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, conducted an interactive mock class that simulated a typical first-year experience course at PC.

“At PC, we want students to recognize and embrace the value of their lived experiences, so we are committed to ensuring a welcoming, nurturing, and empowering environment where they can their authentic selves both in and outside the classroom,” Blair said. “Our first-year exploration courses are instrumental in easing the transition from high school to college by encouraging students to deepen their self-awareness while exploring their interests, skills, abilities, and career goals.”

The group took a walking tour of campus and residence halls with PC Stirlings and visited a student panel moderated by Dr. Joleesa Johnson, director of the Presby First+ program for first-generation college students.

Dr. Shebby Neely Aiken, director of the Jacobs Scholars Program, said the program and the event earned high praise and positive reviews. One student, in particular, responded very favorably by email, she said.

“I can’t thank all of you enough for the amazing college tour experience,” the student wrote. “I had so much fun with the tour and learning about PCs’ passions and goals. You all did such a great job setting it up. This was by far the best college tour. PC has set a pretty high expectation for future college tours and just colleges as themselves. Thank you for allowing me to experience such an amazing and welcoming environment.”

Aiken said the program is building momentum throughout the region as a game-changing, innovative approach to meeting the needs of underserved students.

“The Jacobs Scholars Program is very timely,” she said. “Multiple people have commented in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia that it is wonderful that PC is reaching out to foster care students. The Jacobs Scholars program is the first of its kind in South Carolina. This program will change the narrative of so many students and impact future generations.”