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Wayfind scholars inducted: UCPS-Wingate partnership expands college access

The cost of college can be a concern for many students and families. But thanks to a partnership established in 2019, 36 Union County Public Schools students can feel a sense of relief about their future expenses.

UCPS and Wingate University established Wayfind, a free college-access program with a foundation in mentorship.

Each fall, eighth-graders who attend East Union and Health Science Academy (HSA) at Monroe middle schools and then attend  Forest Hills or Monroe high schools are eligible to apply. The program expanded to Sun Valley and Porter Ridge middle schools this year. These students will continue in Wayfind at Sun Valley High and Porter Ridge High in the 2024-2025 school year. 

Those who successfully complete the program, apply to Wingate University and gain acceptance can receive a four-year, full-tuition scholarship. Wingate University has already committed over $2.5 million to support the inaugural class of Wayfind Scholars who graduated from high school in 2023.

On March 15, in a banquet room at the university, new scholars representing the class of 2028 were inducted into the program.

"As we celebrate the induction of our 36 scholars into the Wayfind program, it's clear our commitment to student success is yielding results. With 68 scholars across grades 9-12, including new participants from Porter Ridge Middle and Sun Valley Middle, our impact is growing," said Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan. "Our support system, including dedicated champions, Wingate mentors and some current seniors, ensures no scholar falls behind. With our continued dedication, I'm confident our new Wayfind Scholars will excel." 

Scholars paired with Wingate University mentors participate in various courses and activities over four years, including a summer camp, college planning and life skills classes, SAT and ACT prep lessons, college visits and more.

This year, the mentor inductions included many of the 2023 Wayfind graduates currently attending Wingate University and UCPS high school seniors from participating schools in the program. 

Ashley Rivera Cuamacateco, a Monroe High senior, and Rossy Moreno Hernandez, a Forest Hills High senior, spoke briefly about their experiences as Wayfind scholars. Both are new Wayfind mentors at their schools and spoke passionately about the importance of the program. 

During her speech, Rossy paused briefly, overcome with emotion, as she recounted her mother's reaction upon learning that the financial strain of college tuition would be relieved. She had not told her she had applied.

"As the eldest daughter of two immigrant parents, I grew up seeing the struggles and sacrifices my parents made to give me and my siblings a better life," said Rossy. "I knew I didn't have it as good as others, so if I wanted something, I had to go out and get it to change my story. I never let anything define me or put me in a box. You should all be very proud of yourselves because taking this small step has changed the trajectory of your life for the greater good."

Aubri Huntley, an eighth grader at Sun Valley Middle, would like to be a pediatrician someday. Now, it is within her reach. 

"This means a lot to me because neither of my parents got to go to college. I'll be the first person in my family to go," said Aubri. "I want to go into medicine because, in fifth grade, we learned about the human body. I was intrigued and thought it was amazing." 

Hearing Aubri's words filled her mother, Mara Huntley, with happy tears, pride and joy, much like the day she found out her daughter was accepted.

"I'm at a loss for words to express what it means for our family that she has this opportunity to attend college without the burden of debt, allowing her to pursue a future where she can discover herself and accomplish remarkable things," said Mara Huntley.

Jah'Zell Arnold, an eighth grader at Porter Ridge Middle, was excited about the future.

"I'm looking forward to the support I'll be getting. I don't know what I want to major in yet, but I do know that college is on the table no matter what career I decide on," said Jah'Zell.

Please see below for this year's list of inducted scholars.

East Union Middle

Kaytie Alvarado-Fuerte

Yamileth Ayala-Valentin

Jaelyn Bautista-Fuentes

Kaylee Flores

Angel Garcia Gonzalez

Yohany Sanchez-Cortez

Noe Sanchez-Urgell

Leylani Tarazona

Abraham Ventura

Patricia Wolfe


Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle

Adriana Au

Angel Capote-Hernandez

Nelson Diaz Elecadio

Matthew Diaz Zuluaga

Angel Gonzalez-Nicolas

Brandon Mullis

Joaly Solis-Bello

Marcos Torres-Alejandre

Paola Valenzuela Ponce

Keily Valle-Ortiz


Porter Ridge Middle 

Hailey Brooke Ahlgren

Jah’Zell Wendell Arnold

Brooklyn Skye Baskin

Millie Cabriales-Luna

Janesa Yolanda Cruz

Blanca Izamal Cruz Nunez

Joselyn Diaz-Ortiz

Nelly Morales

Candy Reyes

Iker Tovar


Sun Valley Middle

Arianna Del Toro

Aubri Huntley

Telli Green

Altynai Akhmetova

Angeliya Bernadel

Tyler Alexander Ratley

Below are photos of the ceremony.