Starting next fall, 15 low-income, minority students from five local high schools will get to attend Central Piedmont Community College tuition-free, thanks to a new pledge from the Howard R. Levine Foundation.

Students vying for the Howard and Julie Levine Opportunity Scholars Program at CPCC must attend Garinger, Harding, Vance, West Charlotte or West Mecklenburg – five CMS high schools with the highest percentage of students living in poverty and the lowest percentage of students attending college.

Selected students will get full, two-year scholarships, in addition to other educational support. Winners will be selected based on the students’ “demonstrated potential for success on the college level,” CPCC said in a statement announcing the Levine grant.

The Levine grant will cover 15 students per year for the first three years, for a total of 45 students under a larger CPCC initiative. The cost of program will be about $10,000 per student, according to a CPCC spokesman.

CPCC said the grant will “enable some of Charlotte’s most in-need high school students to acquire the education and skills needed to embark on meaningful careers.”

The Levine grant was the first under CPCC’s newly create Opportunity Scholarship Initiative.

CPCC said the initiative will provide financial assistance to “at-risk, low-income, minority students to secure family-sustaining employment.”

The Levine scholarships will cover the full cost of attendance – tuition, books and fees – for two years, the time required to earn a technical, career-focused degree at the school. Students also will get notebook computers.

Other benefits include:

• Participating in CPCC’s Summer Bridge academic enrichment program prior to the students first fall semester to help prepare them for college-level work. (The first group of 15 students will start next summer, a CPCC spokesman told Qcitymetro.)

• Support of an academic counselor/career coach to help with course and career path selection, secure internships and other workplace learning opportunities, and assist with job placement.

CPCC President Tony Zeiss said the Levine gift will “transform lives and build a stronger, more inclusive community.”

“Thanks to the great generosity of the Howard R. Levine Foundation, this initiative will provide hope and opportunity for young people currently living in poverty and offer a means to greater economic mobility,” Zeiss said, adding that CPCC will use the Levine gift to engage other donors.

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Removing local barriers to economic mobility has taken on increased significance in Charlotte ever since a Harvard study ranked the city last in upward mobility among 50 large cities. In other words, the study found that Charlotte residents who are born into poverty are less likely than their counterparts in other large cities to eventually find their way out of poverty.

Faced with those findings, local leaders in 2014 commissioned a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force to study the mobility problem and propose solutions.

For information about supporting the Opportunity Scholarship Initiative at Central Piedmont Community College, contact the CPCC Foundation at 704-330-6869.

Founder and publisher of Qcitymetro, Glenn has worked at newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wall Street Journal and The Charlotte Observer.