North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has been awarded a $1.1 million federal grant to support its special education program. 

The grant will allow N.C. A&T to provide students interested in becoming special education teachers with full scholarships in their junior and senior years.

Specifically, the funds are for students with 3.0 GPAs who become what are called “EPIC Scholars.” EPIC stands for Exceptional Educators who are Proficient, Inclusive, and Culturally Competent. 

Gerrelyn Patterson, the chair of A&T’s Department of Educator Preparation, says these students will have access to mentoring and hands-on teaching experience, in addition to the financial support. 

“So eliminating those barriers is particularly important for our student population," Patterson said. "But it also provides them with more opportunities to really strengthen and deepen their content expertise, and apply it in real-world settings earlier and for a more prolonged period of time than the typical student might experience.” 

That helps prepare students to step into the classroom once they graduate. At the end of the program, they’ll earn a degree in elementary education, and obtain a special education teaching license.  

Patterson says this also benefits schools in the community that are in need of highly qualified teachers. 

“We really believe that our position in the state of North Carolina, as the largest HBCU in the nation, and as an educator preparation program, is really to increase and diversify the teacher pipeline," Patterson said. 

In 2022, North Carolina had about 5,000 teacher vacancies. Roughly a fifth of those were for special education teachers.

Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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