HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - A project in two Huntsville City Schools is improving students' desires to go to college. Through the Cap & Gown Project, kids have pushed their boundaries and raised their potential.
Students from Johnson High School and McNair Middle Schools load a bus heading not for class, but for colleges.
"We decided to fill the school bus and now, two years later, we've taken over 300 students on over 40 college tours in eight states and three countries," said Program Coordinator Chris Scribner.
Last Saturday, the Cap & Gown Project's students toured Vanderbilt and Fisk Universities in Nashville. They returned with a drive to do much more.
"We're kind of getting more serious about college instead of playing around," said Malik Williams, a junior at Johnson High School. "We like to play and joke around but when it comes to our business, we're getting more serious as it goes."
For the past two years, buses have pulled up to college curbs and pulled out loads of potential from the students.
"My first year we had about nine students out of 100 graduates matriculate to a two or four-year college straight after graduation," said Scribner. At the end of last year, we had 54 students gain acceptance to college so that's a 600 percent increase."
It costs students just $10 to make these day trips, but they don't have to pay if they can't afford it.
"We want our students to make the choice of whether or not they go to college, not having that choice made for them just based on their zip code," Scribner said.
Program organizers have faith these students can achieve, and with each bus load, they're proven right.
"My ninth grade year, I wasn't the best so I wanted to do better cause I saw everybody going on these college trips, improving themselves and I wanted to do the same," said Justice Whitaker, a junior.
"It is wonderful to see them ignite and to see their potential and see where their destiny can bring them because I truly believe their demographics do not determine their destiny," said Chaundra Jones, a chaperone.
Currently, all tours are funded through the high school's varsity wrestling team where the program's leader is a coach. Help also comes from a handful of donors.
The Community Foundation of Huntsville/Madison County is also establishing a fund to support the Cap & Gown Program. Here's a link to the group's donation page -- they are in the process of setting up a specific Cap & Gown link.