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NCCU Program Helping School Attract Top Scholars

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DURHAM, N.C. — The schools of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association have a rich history, but sometimes the schools are overlooked by the country's top high school students.

CIAA schools actively recruit some of the best players around for their athletic programs.

North Carolina Central University

in Durham is using similar tactics to woo the top students in the country.

Dr. Millicent Booker always dreamed of being a pediatrician. With a 4.0 GPA, the Fuquay-Varina High School graduate had her pick of colleges.

Florida A&M offered her a deal she could not pass up -- a four-year, all-expense-paid scholarship.

"It just took a lot of stress off. You didn't have to worry about 'Oh my goodness, how are my parents going to pay for this? How am I going to have to pay back these loans,'" she said.

When Chancellor James Ammons came to N.C. Central in 2001 from Florida A&M, he started a similar scholarship program designed to recruit top high school graduates. Scholars receive full tuition.

"It also includes four years of room and board, books, a stipend, a laptop computer, and a guaranteed internship for four summers," Ammons said.

The scholarship program helps N.C. Central compete with schools like Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and even Ivy Leagues schools.

Ammons said, "It raises the bar."

This year, N.C. Central attracted six National Achievement scholars -- the top African-American students in the country.

Freshman nursing major Brittany Watson admits N.C. Central was not on her list of colleges until she was offered the scholarship. Now she is glad she did not go anywhere else.

"It's such a nurturing environment," she said. I'm not sure I would have found that at the other schools I was looking at."

Booker finishes up her residency at Duke next summer. She said she would have become a doctor with or without the scholarship, but it made reaching her goal a bit easier.

"It made my goal more attainable," Booker said.

In its third year, the scholarship program is already a big success. It is not just for those interested in health careers. Any student in any major can apply.