The Ayers Foundation

A look into one of HCS’s newest and most valuable student resources

An exciting opportunity for high school Tomcats is on the horizon. The Ayers Foundation is sponsoring and coordinating a free college tour of the University of Memphis for Tuesday, September 28. To be eligible, students must have a current grade point average of 2.8 and an ACT composite score of 17. Note that the permission slip deadline is Friday, Sept. 24, and the sign-up sheet is in the Ayers office.

What is the Ayers Foundation?

The organization, created in 1999, has a clear, concise mission: to improve the quality of life for Tennesseans. Focusing primarily on education, conservation and social welfare, the Ayers Foundation offers financial support for college scholarships, medical services for children, research into pre-cancer detection and diagnosis, continuing education for teachers and other charitable donations and grants.

Their area of greatest concentration – and the one that most directly impacts students and residents of Haywood County – is on improving post-secondary education opportunities for high school students in rural counties. 

The Ayers Foundation Scholars Program funds, trains and staffs guidance counselors in high schools in Decatur, Henderson, Perry, Unicoi, Lawrence, Haywood, Harden, Benton, Lewis, Wayne, Union and Claiborne counties to work with students and parents. The counselors begin working with students in eighth grade with more extensive coaching starting during junior and senior years. Services provided during high school include assistance with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), help finding scholarships and grants, college campus visits, application assistance, and many other activities focusing on removing any barrier for students enrolling and completing college. College access counselors follow each student through postsecondary completion, providing a host of services including coordinating financial aid, navigation of class schedules and reviewing grades and discussing tutoring opportunities if needed. 

100 percent of students enrolled at participating high schools receive services from AFSP. The college-going rate for participating high schools has soared. 

The Ayers Foundation strives to remove all barriers and boundaries for Ayers Scholars. Students have enrolled at more than 99 colleges and universities across 25 states, including Dartmouth, Yale and Vanderbilt. A key piece of The Ayers Foundation model is finding the best fit institution for every student.

Pictured above:Through the Ayers Foundation Scholars Program, Haywood High School now has two College Access Counselors, Tahesia Owens (L) and Sara Benard (R), onsite to assist students with FAFSA, help finding scholarships and grants, college campus visits, application assistance, and many other tasks associated with enrolling and completing college.