On a late-fall Tuesday night, more than thirty students gathered around computers in a classroom to pull up a scholarship application at a Scholarship Night sponsored by Equitable. They listened as experts walked them through the application step-by-step, including setting up an account, tips for essay writing and how to access more scholarships through the same platform. By the end of the night, several participants had their first scholarship application largely completed. For many of these prospective first-generation college students, financial aid and scholarships are critical to their college journey.
Equitable is committed to driving positive change in society by empowering the next generation to reach their full potential through college access and career advancement programs. For more than 20 years, Equitable has increased access to college through Equitable Excellence, a scholarship program offered through Equitable Foundation, the company’s charitable-giving arm. Recently, the scholarship program expanded with the launch of college tours for high school students at universities, including HBCUs, and with mentoring, networking and professional skill-building workshops to support scholarship recipients’ onboarding into their first year of college.
A leading financial services company, Equitable provides advice, protection and retirement strategies to individuals, families and small businesses. Aligned with Equitable’s mission of helping individuals secure financial well-being, the company believes that post-secondary education is critical for addressing income inequity and helping advance social mobility. By supporting students, Equitable is also helping the educators that teach and inspire them. Equitable is the leading provider of 403(b) plans for K-12 schools (1) and proudly serves 800,000 educators across the country. Understanding the crucial role educators play in supporting our youth, Equitable also provides mental wellness and career advancement workshops for teachers and administrators. Jarian Kerekes, Head of Social Impact and Community Engagement at Equitable, knew that building stronger community partnerships would be critical to reach more students.
Equitable has developed relationships with several local organizations in Charlotte, NC, where the company has a large footprint of employees and financial professionals. Like Equitable, these organizations are also committed to providing Charlotte-based high school students with access to college and career advancement opportunities and work directly with them to better understand their unique challenges and needs.
Equitable Foundation approached the challenge by providing seed grant funding to a nonprofit collaborative, Crescent Coalition. The Crescent Coalition connects community-based organizations serving under-resourced students along their journey from middle school through college graduation and successful careers. Created in 2019, the Crescent Coalition was formed to improve Charlotte-Mecklenburg students’ college and career readiness outcomes. While there were a lot of individuals and organizations tackling the challenges and barriers facing students, there was little to no formal coordination among agencies. With ten participating organizations, the Crescent Coalition strengthens outcomes by reducing silos, improving collaborations and expanding college and career opportunities available to students.
“As a first-generation college student myself, I navigated the college admission process with minimal assistance and it was challenging at times,” Kerekes recalls. “I believe that our collaboration with community organizations to assist students and provide them with holistic resources during this important time in their life can have a lasting positive impact.”
Each local organization received a three-year grant and direct access to program support. Convening regularly, the collaborative determined four areas that would move the needle for their students – career exploration, college tours, scholarship workshops and FAFSA workshops. Equitable has used its Charlotte office to host Essay Workshops, College and Career planning sessions and provided space for its partners to convene regularly.
“The difference in our relationship with Equitable is that their team allowed us to imagine and co-create with them,” said Aaron Randolph, Executive Director of Carolina Youth Coalition, one of the nonprofit partners in the pilot program. “They asked us what our students needed and have worked hard to come alongside us and create additional college tours and scholarship nights that we wouldn’t have normally had the opportunity to offer.“
1 LIMRA, Not-for-Profit Survey, Q2 2022 Results, based on 403(b) plan participants and contributions. This applies specifically and exclusively to Equitable Financial Life Insurance Company (Equitable Financial).
Equitable is the brand name of the retirement and protection subsidiaries of Equitable Holdings, Inc., including Equitable Financial Life Insurance Company (Equitable Financial) (NY, NY), Equitable Financial Life Insurance Company of America (Equitable America), an AZ stock company, and Equitable Distributors, LLC. Equitable Advisors is the brand name of Equitable Advisors, LLC (member FINRA, SIPC) (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI and TN). GE- 5491349.1(3/23)(Exp.3/25)