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16 students honored with Access

Graduation is over, but students are still being honored for their hard work and dedication before they head off to college.

The Access College Foundation honored 16 students from Suffolk Public Schools — seven King’s Fork graduates, four Nansemond River graduates and five Lakeland graduates — at its annual Scholarship awards luncheon on Wednesday at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.

The luncheon featured an Access success story with Gwen Green. Green worked with an Access advisor to help her get an acceptance letter from the College of William & Mary, and she continued her education at Harvard Law School.

Green imparted wisdom to the students in the audience and spoke of the great work that Access does for students.

“College has always been a dream of mine. However, the idea of paying for college meant the dream was out of reach,” Green said. “My Access advisor showed me it wasn’t out of reach, and they never doubted me.”

The Access College Foundation awarded a total of $800,000 to 114 graduates in the South Hampton Roads area.

“Don’t let your current financial situation stop you from following your dreams,” Green said.

Having an Access advisor in Suffolk Public Schools has made the possibility of college a reality for many students, and the process didn’t seem as daunting with the help of advisors.

“The process is so stressful and confusing, and Adrienne Miller made it easier,” said Natalie Baines. “Ms. Miller was like my holy grail, and she really highlighted the path for me.”

Miller was the advisor for the seven King’s Fork graduates — Natalie Baines, Dyamon Daniels, Yvette Gamor, Alyssa Goden, Seth Miller, Krystal Mootoo and Kiara Steele.

“Mrs. Miller was really helpful, and she made sure that I got everything in before deadlines,” Dyamon Daniels said. “With her, it was nice and easy.”

Shawn Foster is the Access advisor for the other two Suffolk Public Schools. She assisted the students from Lakeland — Alexis Brown, Madellyn Carr, Jackeeta Steward, Mia Williams and Ryan Wright — and the students from Nansemond River — Maya Ingram, Lamond Johnson-Taylor, Tyla Jones and Joshua Thompson.

“I’m usually really indecisive, but Ms. Foster helped me narrow down the schools I was looking at,” Tyla Jones said. “She helped me fill out my FASFA, which was super beneficial.”

While all of the students were honored for their work and their future endeavors, they were also given advice from Green and the keynote speaker, Darryl Bell, who was an actor in “A Different World,” a sitcom from the ‘80s and ‘90s that was set at a fictional college in Virginia.

Bell is an advocate for students to complete four-year degree programs because of the financial benefits. Bell cited that students with higher education are more likely to earn more money, be full-time workers, own a home and vote. He also told students that they would learn a lot of important skills during their time in college.

“There are fundamental reasons why college is an important opportunity. College provides an opportunity to change their lives,” Bell said. “College is the most predictable advantage for these students.”