Henry Darby has seen the ways scholarship support can completely transform a life. The veteran educator and South Carolina native currently serves as principal of North Charleston High School. Many of his students want to go to college, but financial circumstances can make that path a challenging one.
Former Davidson parents are hoping to help those students realize their dreams. They have committed $250,000 to fund endowed scholarships for students with financial need, particularly those who are first generation college students from underrepresented groups, from the Charleston/North Charleston region.
"Through our daughter, we have seen what Davidson provides," said the donors, who wish to remain anonymous. "Academic excellence, a strong moral compass... giving students the chance to go to college is the most significant opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of their families. Their success then sets a wonderful example for the strength and empowerment education provides."
Darby walks the halls of a high school that traditionally has struggled with student discipline issues and low teacher morale. He was hired in 2017 to bring consistency back to the campus. His personal experience mirrors that of many of his students.
"Growing up in the segregated south, and attending second-class schools, laws forbade my procuring the best education possible," he said. "My mother would go through dump piles, picking up and selling bottles and cans to make ends meet and to save money for college."
Darby contributed to his education, working three or four jobs at a time to pay for college.
"I want students today to benefit from the struggles of those who made unimaginable sacrifices to obtain a sound education," he said. "Without the resources, their dreams of attending institutions of higher learning are not structured into reality."
Students at Davidson grow by exploring differing perspectives, on campus and in the classroom.
"Each semester, students in my classes engaged diverse perspectives that disrupt taken-for-granted norms rooted in majority privilege, and they build upon, challenge, debate and grapple with ideas they may not have thought about if it weren't for a diverse classroom climate," said Amanda Martinez, associate professor of communication studies and sociology. "If this climate is established well, differing perspectives unfold, and students feel comfortable speaking up and contributing to our collective and evolving knowledge."
Martinez revels in the moments when students continue discussions beyond class time—they often stop by during her office hours or at a lunchtime roundtable to keep it going.
The donors behind this new scholarship care deeply about the ways their support will further enhance these types of conversations. And they are passionate about the people of Charleston.
"After the shooting took place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, known as Mother Emanuel, the city of Charleston was peaceful," they said. "The city united, and people prayed together—black, white, every race—and there was a sense of grace and forgiveness that you just don't see every day. It's one reason we feel so strongly about the kids from this area, and it's why we feel they should have every opportunity to succeed."