Donors honored

Published 9:32 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Suffolk area donors to the Access College Foundation enjoy a luncheon in their honor at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

They’ve given much toward progressing the college dreams of many Suffolk school students. It was time for them to be given a proverbial pat on the back.

At Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts Wednesday, the Access College Foundation held a special luncheon to pay tribute to its generous area donors.

The foundation helps students transition from school to college by providing one-on-one and group counseling as well as financial aid.

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To do so, it relies on the support of clubs, trusts, foundations and businesses, 12 of which were singled out for thanks at the event, as well as numerous community-minded individuals.

Program Director Cheryl Jones described the foundation’s successes in Suffolk.

In 2010-2011, 859 students received college information, 305 students reported a combined $3.1 million in financial aid, and 55 foundation scholarships of $1,000 each were awarded.

Through eight years in Suffolk, college information has been provided to 6,165 students, 1,705 students reported financial aid and $175,000 in Access scholarships were distributed.

Ninety-seven percent of Suffolk students receiving scholarships stay in college, Jones said.

Conversely, foundation President and CEO Bonnie Sutton said, 50 percent of such students nationwide remain in college after six years.

“That means Suffolk students are doing extremely well,” Sutton said.

Three Suffolk seniors expressed their gratitude those attending the luncheon. They presented an inspiring portrait of determined young people on the track to success.

Alexandria Moore, of Nansemond River High School, said her Access coach has had a “positive impact” on her future.

“I’m very appreciative for all the assistance I have been given,” she said.

Moore said she works two part-time jobs while completing her senior year, and will major in biology at Old Dominion University in order to become a physician’s assistant.

“It’s a privilege to have this great opportunity — it has changed my life,” she said.

Lakeland High’s Tyler Mizelle said he will major in engineering at Virginia Tech, and Kayla Harrell, of King’s Fork High, explained her plans to major in modeling and simulation at Old Dominion University.

Addressing the gathering, Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Deran Whitney described the wider benefit of the foundation’s work.

“Its ripple effect is donors helping schools, schools helping students, and the students helping the community when they give back to society,” he said.