Here's how it came about: The current and former CEOs of Waffle House, Walt Ehmer and Bert Thornton, are both Georgia Tech graduates. In a conversation at a recent alumni event, Thornton and Georgia Tech poetry professor Karen Head discussed how the college guarantees admission for any valedictorian or salutatorian in the state, but 37 of the 159 counties did not send a single applicant, Andrew Alexander reports for Atlanta Magazine.
Head, a first-generation college graduate, believes this is because students in many rural counties don't know many college graduates. "I told Bert I wanted to go out to the most rural schools in the most far-flung counties and talk about arts and poetry. I wanted the students to hear my story about going to college," Head told Alexander.
|Head's nametag (Photo courtesy of Head)|
Rural students nationwide are less likely to go to college, partly because of so-called "education deserts" with no local universities. Also, many rural high schools can't afford to pay an adviser to help students get ready for college, and many colleges don't make much effort to recruit rural students, too. And, Head observed, many rural students don't know any college graduates who can serve as a role model and source of advice.