Students like Devon want to break cycles of poverty and finish college -- but they can't do it alone

Posted at 4:30 AM, May 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-05 06:51:02-04

CINCINNATI -- The day Devon Pyles moved into her dorm at Northern Kentucky University, she and her mother both cried.

It wasn't a negative event, she said. But it was a scary one.

"I didn't want to show my mom that I was nervous or sad that I was leaving," she said. "But when I got back to the dorm, I cried."

Pyles, who will begin her sophomore year in August, is the first person in her family to attend college. She has three siblings and describes her family as "low-income," meaning they had to plan carefully to afford the cost of her tuition.

The price of an American college education has risen steadily over the course of the last century, according to Time, and that's just the basics -- classes to attend and a place to sleep. The tools of daily living such as toiletries, laundry supplies, clothes and bedding can represent a significant additional expense for families that don't have much to spare.

That's why Pyles' College Success Starter Kit was so important.

Thanks to a program established through Covington Partners, she and nine other students in need were able to walk into college with all the supplies necessary to turn a dorm room into a home: Towels, a desk lamp, laundry baskets and a full set of bedding, among other items.

"The transition from being a senior in high school to being a freshman in college can be very stressful financially, emotionally," said Ashley McClure, who works for Covington Partners as well as Holmes High School, where she met Pyles. "We just want to help alleviate some of that stress for our students."

The total cost of each starter kit is around $900, McClure said. They're funded by donations and awarded according to a need-based application process. Like Pyles, their other recipients come from low-income or socially disadvantaged backgrounds.

"My mom struggled with addiction," Pyles said. "If my mom didn't get better, I just wanted to be there for my siblings and I wanted to be that role model for them. … I think me going to Holmes and meeting Miss Ashley, I think it all was supposed to happen so that I could be here."

Pyles hopes to teach English at a high school or college level. Her mother recently celebrated her one-year sobriety anniversary.

And Covington Partners hopes it can help even more incoming freshman in 2017. The organization was able to distribute 10 kits to Pyles and her peers in 2016; this year, it's shooting for 15.

"I want to give all of these students what they need to succeed in college," McClure said.

If you would like to make a donation to help students like Devon Pyles, you can give to Covington Partners online.