The power of one can impact the lives of many.


Project One offers scholarships to students who are Mecklenburg County residents planning to attend a North Carolina public college/university and have a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher. Recipients must demonstrate initiative and have a family whose income is at or below 200 percent of poverty rate. The student is required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).


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A Harvard University/UC-Berkeley study revealed that Charlotte ranked 50th out of 50 on a list titled “Intergenerational Mobility in the 50 Largest Commuting Zones.”

“Education equals opportunity,” said Neal Emmons, founder of Project One. “It’s crucial to breaking generational cycles of poverty.”

Emmons started POSF in 2009 to “pay it forward.” A family friend paid for his college education, and he wanted to help do the same for other kids in single-parent homes. “It’s extremely tough for kids from low-income, single-parent families to escape poverty,” he said. “What we’re doing for this demographic is crucial – and it happens to align with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force recommendations.”

POSF offers scholarships to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students planning to attend a N.C. state-supported college or university. Recipients must have a GPA of 3.0 or above, demonstrate initiative, come from a single-parent home whose income is at or below 200 percent of poverty rate. The student is required to apply for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

One Task Force strategy is to “broaden the range of and access to high-quality college and career pathways …   ensuring all students have access to and support for the full range of opportunities.”

“Access and support – not every parent is equipped to offer those things to a child,” Emmons said. “If you’re struggling to make it from paycheck to paycheck, paying for college may not even be on your radar. And given that some CMS guidance counselors are responsible for between 200 and 300 kids, you can see how easy it is for some kids to fall through the cracks.”

POSF maintains close relationships with many guidance counselors at high-poverty schools. “We depend on them to tell students that help does exist,” Emmons said.

POSF offers not just support for tuition, room, board and books. Each POSF scholar is assigned a mentor to help with budgeting, time management, career direction and more. “The mentoring component is critical,” Emmons said. “Some families living in poverty rely on their teenage children to work and contribute to household expenses. So, a child going away to college isn’t always something to celebrate. It means a loss of family income. It’s a tough dynamic. Mentors are prepared to address the challenge.”

Title I schools are often highly – almost exclusively – focused on just trying to get students to graduate. College preparation is less important than getting a high school diploma. “One scholar told us that none of her friends were on the college track,” Emmons said. “She risked ridicule if she told her friends she was thinking of applying to college. So, she acted nonchalant at school – and came home and studied as if her life depended on it.”

Only about 45 percent of first-generation college students graduate. “They are easily derailed,” Emmons said. “Our mentors make a significant investment of time with our scholars to help them stay motivated toward that long-term goal.”


Personal Financial Management

Scholars participate in ongoing financial literacy workshops that cover a wide-range of topics pertinent to young people who are living on their own and managing their own money for the first time. Lessons include budgeting, saving, credit cards, building credit history, etc.


Gifts / Talents AND Career Readiness

Scholars are assessed to help determine their strengths and their potential course of study. They will also explore their personal passions and ways to give back to their community.

Throughout college scholars receive ongoing professional development such as business etiquette, “soft skills” training, resume writing, and interviewing.


Mentoring Program

Students have support throughout the course of their programs and scholarships from an ongoing relationship with a Project One Mentor.



• Students raised in a single parent family
• Resident of Mecklenburg County
• Planning to attend a NC public college/university
• High school GPA of 3.0 or higher
• Demonstrates initiative – involved in student council, extracurricular activities, community involvement, and/or has work history
• Parent’s income at or below 200% of poverty rate (based on family size)
• Student will be required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

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The 2019 application cycle is closed. Applications are received annually in the Spring. Each application is considered by a Selection Committee that is comprised of Project One Board members and other dedicated community volunteers. The top applicants are invited to an in-person interview with the Committee. Scholarships are awarded in the Spring, before the end of a scholar’s senior year of high school.

Please email questions about our application process to:


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