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#ByStudentsForStudents: Chatham Scholars Fund

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Jonathan Aguilar is no stranger to hardship. For him, it is a way of life. Brought to North Carolina by his mother at age 3, Jonathan is a DREAMer and a doer who overcame everything life threw at him and more. He graduated at the top of his class at Jordan-Matthews High School and earned a full ride to Duke University. It was never easy, but he'd be the first to tell you, you can do anything you put your mind to.  

Now, a junior in chemistry, he has returned home a man on a mission. He's helping lead the first #ByStudentsForStudents scholarship in Chatham County history, the Atkins Chatham Scholars Fund, but he can't do it alone. Here's Jonathan's story and why he needs your help.

Read Jonathan's profile in Chatham Magazine

"I awoke to the blaring sound of the alarm. The clock read 4:45. I got up, grabbed my sad excuse of a book bag, cloaked myself in a blanket, and stepped outside into the freezing morning air. This was my family’s daily routine; and for the longest time, I could not understand why. My mother was always away breaking her back doing strenuous work. After school, my infant sister and I were always locked away with some babysitter awaiting the hour until we finally saw our raggedy car pull up in the driveway. Sometimes, these somber moments seemed endless; but from 2005 until 2013, this was our definition of living the “American dream.”

Up until my sophomore year of high school, I had never considered the possibility of attending college. As a non-US citizen of society’s lower class, many of the resources available to other students were out of my reach. Furthermore, my lack of residential status meant that I would have to pay out-of-state tuition at any public college/university in North Carolina and elsewhere in the states. At this point in my life, I genuinely thought that I would just end up going straight to work after high school. However, I did not — I could not — let this fear silence my yearning for higher education.

I looked and scavenged through the few yet impactful resources I had and became informed of the many different pathways I could take in order to attend college. In the end, I was able to apply to two colleges with some sort of financial security. I was admitted with a full ride to the one I desired most. Nowadays, you can find me in Bull City doing biophysical undergraduate research at Duke University. My time in college has been nothing short of extraordinary, and I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunities I've had. But I also know, deep down, I'm not the only one. So as I near the end of my college career, I want to ask you to help me return the favor to my county — help us make a Chathamite's college dream come true."

At the Atkins Chatham Scholars Fund, our mission is to make stories like Jonathan's possible. We're a special partnership between the Chatham Education Foundation and Chatham Youth, and we're making history. As the first and only #ByStudentsForStudents scholarship in Chatham and one of the first in the nation, we're demonstrating the resolve of a new generation. High school and college juniors have accepted the mantle of a new day in America. 

And our call couldn't have come at a more urgent time. Today, as the pandemic has wiped out millions of lives and livelihoods across our nation, it's everyday Americans who are left to pick up the pieces. Student loan debt in the United States totals a staggering $1.68 trillion and continues to grow at over 6 times the rate of the national economy. Higher education has never been in higher demand, and yet, so far out of reach for so many. It is said that education is the 'great equalizer,' but in these times, it might as well be the 'great barrier.' The good news is, there is hope. And that hope starts with you.

Learn more about Simon Green Atkins

Simon Green Atkins, the namesake of our scholarship, found hope in some unfamiliar places. Born into slavery in 1863 here in Chatham County, Mr. Atkins founded Winston-Salem State University, HBCU, and the NC Negro Teachers' Association. He dedicated his life to improving education, health, housing, and economic opportunity for our state's African-American community.

Any Chatham County Schools high school senior may apply, given three constraints: 1) students must be pursuing a bachelor's degree, 2) possess a GPA of 3.0+, and 3) have a household income at or below $60,000. The recipient must maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout university enrollment; failure to do so after one probationary period would result in the cessation of funding, in which case the remaining amount would be transferred to the next year(s)'s fund.

They all say, "start small," but even in our inaugural year, we decided to think big. Our goal is to raise $28,000, enough to cover 4 years of tuition at any UNC system school, akin to Jonathan's full ride. However, the recipient is not limited to selecting schools from within the UNC system. Disbursement will occur in equal apportionments on a semesterly basis. 

With your help and your contribution, we can make #ByStudentsForStudents the scholarship of the future. Remember, your commitment is not merely a donation today but an investment in a family and a future tomorrow. Please chip in whatever you can and spread the word. Every little bit counts. We can't do this without YOU!!

Alexander Cook (Northwood HS Jr.), Chatham Youth Founder & President; Jonathan Aguilar (Duke Jr.), Chatham Scholars Co-Director & Scholarship Review Co-Chair

Jacob Hartman (NHS Jr.), Chatham Scholars Co-Director; Patrick McCaw (NHS Jr.), Chatham Scholars Co-Director


  • Anonymous
    • $1,500 
    • 1 yr
  • Stephanie Arthur
    • $100 
    • 3 yrs
  • George Greger-Holt
    • $25 
    • 3 yrs
  • Law Offices of W. Woods Doster,P.A.
    • $100 
    • 3 yrs
  • Harris Realty and Auction Harris
    • $100 
    • 3 yrs

Fundraising team: The DREAM Team (6)

Jaime Detzi
Chatham Education Foundation (Chatham Education Foundation)
Registered nonprofit
Donations are typically 100% tax deductible in the US.
Alexander Cook
Team member
Jacob Hartman
Team member
Aiden Vigus
Team member
Jonathan Aguilar
Team member

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