As he got older, however, he realized the path to higher education would be more challenging — and expensive — than he once thought. But through the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program and the Carolina Covenant, Garcia-Baza became the first member of his family to earn a college degree this past May.

“I could see that UNC was committed to not only bringing in students, but to helping them reach that goal,” he said.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s years of dedication to providing support and opportunities for thousands of students like Garcia-Baza was recognized June 19 when the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation awarded Carolina with the 2017 Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence.

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Story by Brandon Bieltz and video by Carly Swain. Published June 19, 2017