Thanks to Access College

Published 6:56 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2018

If there were a movie trailer for the Access College Foundation’s Suffolk Donor Recognition Luncheon, it would be called “the feel-good event of the spring.”

The luncheon always features students who have amazing stories to tell about overcoming odds that could have derailed them and instead setting their sights on college with the help of the Access College Foundation.

Many Access scholars will be the first in their families to attend a four-year institution. As such, they have no knowledge and experience of older siblings, parents, grandparents or aunts and uncles upon which to rely. They may think that even applying to college — never mind attending — is unaffordable for their families, because they don’t know about fee waivers. They may be unfamiliar with deadlines and the lingo and acronyms that are used: early decision, early admission, SAT, ACT, GPA, FAFSA, and the list goes on. They may never hear about full-ride scholarships based on academics, because they don’t know they exist, and therefore believe that there’s no way their families will ever be able to afford college.

While the foundation started out 30 years ago — 15 years ago in Suffolk — simply helping high-school students go to college, it has grown along the continuum in both directions. Not only does it now have a middle-school early awareness program but also it has added college advisors at 13 Virginia colleges and, going even farther up the scale, has added a career connection program to help newly minted college graduates find the first job in their career — because, as anyone who has graduated college and begun working can tell you, that’s where the real learning begins.

The program has a great success rate. Access scholars achieve an overall retention and graduation rate of 88 percent, according to the organization, which is significantly higher than the current national six-year average of 59 percent.

All of this is thanks to many donors in Suffolk, including local community foundations, businesses and individuals, who have consistently funded the foundation the entire 15 years it has been in Suffolk and many others who have joined in along the way.

We couldn’t be more thrilled that the Access College Foundation is operating in Suffolk Public Schools to help its students find their path to success.

To learn more about the Access College Foundation, visit www.accesscollege.org.