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Crosby Scholars CEO and President Mona Lovett Shares First Gen Experience

Crosby President and CEO Mona Lovett is a catalyst for change. Starting at Crosby Scholars in 1996 as one of only four employees, Lovett's leadership and vision has drastically transformed the organization. Crosby Scholars now impacts the lives of over 10,000 students and 60 staff. Lovett's deep understanding of student needs fuels her profound impact.

“As a first-generation college student, I understand that being the first in your family to go to college is not easy whether you come from a small town or a large urban center,” Lovett said. “Neither of my parents graduated from high school. My dad worked as a butcher in a meat-packing plant for over 40 years, and my mom sold life insurance door-to-door. They were proud, hard-working people who wanted more for their children. My mom expected me do well in school, go to college and graduate in four years. The only request they had of me for college was to go to an in-state college, and they promised to help me get there, as long as I did my work.

My mother is the source of my inspiration who shared real-world knowledge and perspectives that helped me to build my self-confidence, broaden my leadership skills and helped me realize that I didn’t have to be perfect, but that it’s okay to give it a shot! She also instilled in me the “why NOT me” attitude. Faith, connecting to people, and making good decisions are very important. And a lot of her ‘home-spun’ wisdom helped shape who I am and what I do.

“Most of the people that I knew who had gone to college were my teachers. The top 20 percent in our high school were encouraged to pursue college, and we had a meat-processing plant in town, so students could work there when they graduated like their parents or, if they were really lucky, they’d get a job at the shipyard. We had no AP classes, a few honors classes and advanced biology. I had friends who were in the top 20 of the class who did not score a 700 on the SAT. I took the SAT once, applied to two colleges, was accepted to both, and visited one.”

“I earned a scholarship to help cover tuition and promised my parents I would work so that I wouldn’t have to take out loans for college. I didn’t have a roommate because when the person learned that she would have a black roommate, she requested a room change. Having a counselor who encouraged me, parents who supported me, and good grades made the difference. I never felt that I didn’t belong, but I felt obligated to achieve and graduate.

“I’ve lived the story that I’m telling: students today still need encouragement, support, confidence, direction—and hope. College was life-changing for me.”

Story By Kathy Norcross Watts, 2021

Resilience in Action

"In a year filled with uncertainty, Crosby Scholars give me hope, and I wanted to share that with you...They want to change the world. When I hear their goals, see their determination and learn they have been admitted to a school on their college target list, I have faith in our future."

Read more from Senior Adviser Kathy Norcross Watts' Winston-Salem Journal article at