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CAP & GOWN Project Fund Receives Two Major Grants

Huntsville, AL – The CAP & GOWN Project is a program started by J. O. Johnson High School teacher and wrestling coach Chris Scribner and his colleagues Emily Heller and Katharine Martin as a way to improve college matriculation rates and encourage students to consider continuing their education after high school graduation. CAP & GOWN scholars have toured over 60 colleges from Montgomery to Massachusetts, and also participate in student-led community service projects. Since those first college tours, the amount of college scholarship dollars has tripled for Johnson students, and the college matriculation rate for Johnson graduates has increased by 600 percent.

Jan Smith, CEO of S3, Inc., was the founding donor of the new fund created at the Community Foundation of Huntsville/Madison County. Ms. Smith’s generous initial gift of $10,000 launched the fund, which was followed by a recent grant of $25,000 from the Alpha Foundation, boosting the total to $35,000. Mr. Scribner has obtained a matching gift from an out-of-state donor who has pledged to match up to $250,000 to make CAP & GOWN a permanent endowment, allowing the program to continue indefinitely. These matching funds are contingent on raising at least $100,000 of donations from other sources first.

Since starting CAP & GOWN during the 2013-2014 school year, Mr. Scribner and other Huntsville City Schools faculty have taken over 300 students on campus visits to more than 60 colleges, including visits to Vanderbilt University (three times), Georgia Tech University (three times), Emory University (three times), Morehouse College (twice), Spelman College (twice), Clark Atlanta University (twice), Georgia State University (twice), Fisk University, Alabama A&M University (twice), University of Alabama at Huntsville (twice), Oakwood, Auburn University (twice), Tuskegee University, Alabama State University (twice), University of Alabama at Birmingham (twice), Miles College, University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Georgetown University, The George Washington University, Howard University, Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Juilliard School, Columbia University, New York University, Harvard University, Boston College, Boston University, Tufts University, Wellesley College, University of Oxford, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Appalachian State University, Wake Forest University, High Point University, Duke University, University of North Carolina, and Davidson College.

During the 2015-2016 school year, CAP & GOWN students will visit the following 32 college campuses:

University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Auburn University, University of Alabama at Huntsville, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of South Alabama, University of North Alabama, Alabama A&M University, Alabama State University, University of South Alabama, University of West Alabama, Athens State University, Tuskegee University, Miles College, Vanderbilt University, Georgia Tech University, Emory University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Georgia State University, Clark Atlanta University, Oakwood University, University of Southern Mississippi, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, Tulane University, Loyola University of New Orleans, University of Kentucky, Transylvania University, Middle Tennessee State University, University of the South at Sewanee, University of Georgia, Berea College, and Georgetown University.

“I was inspired by Chris Scribner and Jailen Young, one of his students, after hearing them speak at the Community Foundation’s recent Summit on Philanthropy conference. The amazing results this campus visit program has achieved made me realize the need to help create a permanent source of funding for CAP & GOWN. I am very pleased to be able to help these students realize their dreams of higher education,” stated Mrs. Smith.

Mr. Scribner added: “Huntsville not only boasts the smartest minds in America, but also the biggest hearts. We are starting to realize that our city can only be as strong as our most underserved students, and we are taking action as a community to invest in our human capital. College is becoming increasingly necessary for citizens to compete in the new economy, and we will work relentlessly to allow all of our students to choose how they want to continue their education after they graduate from high school.”

“The Community Foundation is very excited to see how quickly the community has responded to support this important project, and we’re happy to be able to provide the oversight and administrative support for the CAP & GOWN Project Fund. This project is a wonderful example of how philanthropy and passionate community leaders can ‘move the needle’ in achieving positive change in our community,” said Stuart Obermann, CEO/President of the Community Foundation. “We hope that others will recognize the opportunity this fund provides for our local students and take advantage of the dollar-for-dollar matching grant that the generous anonymous donor has provided.”

About the CAP & GOWN Project

The mission of CAP & GOWN is as follows:

The CAP & GOWN Project Fund “creates academic pathways” for children from low-income homes through college tours, admissions counseling, and college entrance exam preparation so that 100 percent of our students graduate college and to “guide others wherever needed” when our students are trained and supported to run their own community service initiatives.
To donate to the CAP & GOWN Project Fund, send a check payable to the Community Foundation of Huntsville/Madison County, PO Box 332, Huntsville, AL 35804, and put “CAP & GOWN Project Fund” in the memo field. Your tax-deductible donations will help create a permanent source of funding for this worthwhile initiative.

About the Community Foundation of Huntsville/Madison County

Our Mission: The Community Foundation of Huntsville/Madison County serves as the trustee of our community’s future, fostering philanthropy and mobilizing partners, while striving for an exceptional quality of life both today and tomorrow.

The Community Foundation was founded in Huntsville in 2009. In the size years since inception, the Community Foundation has raised or managed over $16.1M in charitable donations and has distributed over $5M to nonprofit agencies, churches, and schools in our community and elsewhere. The foundation also provides educational, networking and capacity building services for the nonprofit organizations that benefit from our donors’ grants.

For more information about the Community Foundation or the CAP & GOWN Project, contact Stuart Obermann at 256.535.2065 or or visit