Accessing the dream

Published 10:23 pm Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thanks to the work of advisors with the Access College Foundation, at least four students from Suffolk Public Schools who might otherwise not have been able to attend college will do so this fall.

During a donor recognition luncheon at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts on Wednesday, four of the students who have benefited most from the foundation’s work in Suffolk told stories of how their college dreams can now come true because of the organization.

One young lady told of how her mother’s death from cancer in the middle of the student’s junior year, right in the midst of college visits and admission tests, could have derailed her plans but for the help the folks at Access gave her. Another student, who will be the first person in her family to attend college, told of how some of her family members had tried to discourage her from pursuing her dream, while her Access advisor had been supportive throughout the process.


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One young man described the terror he had felt around animals as a boy. He overcame those fears and now hopes to become a veterinarian, but it took financial help from Access for him to afford the application and testing fees necessary to be accepted into a college. And one young lady, whose parents emigrated here from Ghana, described how Access helped her navigate the college application and deadline requirements that might have been insurmountable obstacles to her dream of becoming a pediatrician.

All four Suffolk seniors — and many more — have benefited from the program, which is now in its 10th year of operation in Suffolk. Access has counselors in all three of Suffolk’s public high schools, as well as half of its middle schools. The counselors hold parent-night workshops; assist with applications for college, scholarships and federal aid; conduct college tours; help students file for fee waivers for applications and standardized tests; and provide “last-dollar” scholarships to close the gap between other funding and the cost of college.

More than 2,500 Suffolk students have been helped in finding funding for college — about $25 million in funding. More than $375,000 has been awarded to 310 Suffolk students in “last-dollar” scholarships. And those students who take advantage of the foundation’s help have a remarkable success rate in college. In the foundation’s 10 years providing services in Suffolk, 91 percent of Access scholars graduated college within six years, compared to the 52-percent national average.

For some students, college seems an inaccessible dream not because of their lack of ability or desire, but because of factors that are far beyond their control. For them, the Access College Foundation truly makes the dream accessible.