Women of Achievement
for a woman who solved a glaring problem despite
widespread inertia, apathy or ignorance around her:
Through the perseverance and determination of Carol Barnett, hundreds of the brightest Memphis City Schools students have been given the opportunity to attend summer academic enrichment programs through the Rotary Prep Program. In 1985, Carol began working with the Memphis Rotary Club, bringing the Prep program with her. When she started her work, 15 students from 8 Memphis City High Schools attended 5 different summer programs. At the end of her tenure as program director in 2007, 116 students from 22 Memphis City High Schools attended 30 different summer academic enrichment programs. Additionally, summer scholarships for these students rose from $129,000 in 1998 to over $430,000 in 2007.
Now known as the Memphis PREP Program, the organization Carol led for 17 years has striven to take academically talented students out of their own environments and expose them to new places, people, and academic demands. Students often make statements such as one from a recent attendee, “I believe the most important lesson I learned was that America is definitely not alone in the world…There is a whole world outside of Memphis, Tennessee and Prep School opened my eyes to that world. I now have the confidence to know that I have what it takes to compete.”
Reaching these students has taken extraordinary determination. Working with and educating guidance counselors who often did not know about the program, Carol reached out so all talented students would have opportunities. She developed a core group of volunteers to assist her, and her enthusiasm spread to them, and inspired a similar level of dedication within that group. Additionally, Carol was determined that these talented students would go on to college, and she has counseled and worked with them toward that end, developing a relationship with the Junior League to provide college exam preparation classes and seminars, and most recently to obtain foundation support for a dedicated college counselor.
The results of Carol’s determination are astounding. Every year, multiple students are accepted to Ivy League schools and other top tier colleges and universities. Local alums include Judge Lee Coffee, neurosurgeon Dr. Darel Butler, Schering Plough chemist and Memphis PREP Board member Ed Vaughn, seven current Memphis City Schools principals, a multitude of teachers and assistant principals, and MCS labor attorney Kimkea Harris.