For thousands of area families, the New Century Scholars program has been a game-changer.

Established in 1995, New Century Scholars annually identifies high-potential seventh-grade students in Jackson, Macon and Swain counties and offers them the promise of a two-year education at Southwestern Community College with the assurance that last-dollar tuition will be covered.

In order to fund the next group of program inductees, the SCC Foundation will hold a “Dollars For New Century Scholars” raffle throughout April. The grand prize will be $500, and additional prizes of $250 and $100 will go to the second and third place winners.

The drawing will be held May 7.

Students who join the program receive much more than financial support along the way. New Century Scholars also provides resources and mentorship to help students navigate middle and high school, engaging them in community service projects, professional development and networking opportunities to provide them with educational and career experiences.

One example of the program’s lifelong impact is Krystal Hoyle)Shuler, a member of the first class of New Century Scholars. She graduated from SCC’s Emergency Medical Science program in 2004 and is now an N.C. paramedic shift supervisor, N.C. paramedic instructor and EMS program director.

She is one of more than 2,400 students who have been able to change their lives through New Century Scholars.

“The program took away so much of the financial burden from our parents, families and even us as students,” Shuler said. “I’m obviously really grateful for that. But the mentorship you receive from the leaders who work with you is more of a help than any other part of it, in learning how to work with other people, interview and get involved in your local community.”

To purchase a raffle ticket and get more information about this year’s fundraiser, visit www.SouthwesternCC.edu/Dollars4NCS.