College Lift Initiative


The College Lift Initiative (CLI) is currently the flagship program of the Piedmont Renewal Network. Through CLI, students will complete a 7 year selected academic program designed to prepare them for acceptance and success at college or university. Beginning in 6th grade, students will attend Weekend Academy, a Saturday morning program designed to provide rigorous auxiliary instruction in Math, Science, and Language Arts. This program is designed to both raise their GPA, and prepare them to excel on the standardized tests so crucial for college acceptance. In addition, CLI scholars who fall below a 2.5 GPA will receive after school tutoring from qualified CLI volunteers. Because students are far more likely to succeed with consistent parental involvement, CLI’s Family Accompaniment program will facilitate a whole-family, wraparound support system for CLI scholars on their academic journeys. Seminars will be offered for the parents, grandparents, or guardians of CLI scholars on topics such as the creation of positive learning environments, equipping their student for academic success, and the college application process. CLI scholars who complete the entire program and get accepted to local partner institutions will be able to attend tuition free. The Piedmont Renewal Network has thus far established partnerships with Piedmont International University and Winston-Salem State University.

The Piedmont Renewal Network has adapted its College Lift Initiative from the University of Southern California’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI). NAI graduated its first class of seniors in 1997, and since then has seen 1000 students complete the program. Over 80% of NAI’s graduates have gone on to 4 year universities, and hundreds have been able to attend USC tuition free. USC’s NAI program has been featured in the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, CNN, ABC, and a host of other news outlets.¹ The program has been proven in its ability to transform lives and neighborhoods through educational mobility, and the Piedmont Renewal Network is excited to implement it here in Winston-Salem.

USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) Reach Higher Learning video.

The Piedmont Renewal Network has been privileged in that NAI program directors Kim Thomas-Barrios and Dr. Lizette Zarate have been in direct correspondence with our startup team, providing guidance and perspective as we undertake the establishment of our own project. We have also received on-site training at USC, further equipping us to effectively establish a NAI type program here in Winston-Salem. The staff of the Piedmont Renewal Network has greatly benefitted from our partnership with USC, and counts it a privilege to undertake this effort alongside such a generous and knowledgeable institution.
The Piedmont Renewal Network is looking to expand upon USC’s NAI model in Winston-Salem by partnering with multiple local colleges and universities instead of just one. It is our aspiration to secure full tuition scholarships from every university in and around Winston-Salem, so that every student from a low income household who finishes CLI and meets the admissions standards of a local university can attend tuition free. If we can leverage Winston’s multiple institutions of higher learning as assets to propel students from low-income households into the city’s modern industries, we can turn up the dial of upward mobility in Winston-Salem.

The Piedmont Renewal Network conducted the first semester of the College Lift Initiative from January 20th, 2018 – May 26th, 2018. For details, see our Progress Report.

¹ “Neighborhood Academic Initiative.” Communities, The University of Southern California Accessed 13 August 2017.