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Local students receive scholarships

ACCESS College Foundation hosted its scholarship celebration virtually on Friday for its 2020 graduates.

Among the 116 recipients, nine were from Suffolk, and six were from Western Tidewater schools. ACCESS College Foundation is a nonprofit organization that ensures all students have the opportunity to attend a college, trade school or other post-high school plans.

“My goal is when a senior walks across the stage to graduate, they have goals for their life afterward,” said Adrienne Miller, ACCESS advisor at King’s Fork High School.

ACCESS College Foundation posted the event on its Instagram story and Facebook page. The celebration included the reading of the recipients’ names with their scholarship and college plans. The recipients sent in videos of them thanking the donors and ACCESS for making these scholarships possible. Scholarship donors were on videocall with the recipients as they told them the criteria and the award amount.

Even though it was virtual, there was still a personal feel to the celebration.

“We couldn’t just let it go,” said Cheryl Jones, vice president of programs for ACCESS. “The class of 2020 has been so resilient. We couldn’t let them not be seen for their accomplishments. Celebrating with them is what it’s all about.”

Among the scholarship recipients was Christian Edwards of King’s Fork High School. Edwards received one of the general ACCESS scholarships worth $5,000.

“I am very appreciative,” said Edwards. “It’s nice to see my hard work in school pay off both figuratively and literally. I am thankful to the donors and to ACCESS for making this possible.”

Edwards plans to attend George Mason University in the fall to major in art and visual tech with a concentration in graphic design. He hopes to join their accelerated master’s program in art education.

Western Branch High School students were also among those recognized for their accomplishments.

Jailyn Riddick received the Phillips & Peters Young Women Leaders Scholarship for $6,500. This award was for a first-generation college-bound female pursuing a career in legal, criminal justice or public service. Riddick plans to go to George Mason to study forensic psychology.

“This is a very prestigious honor to be the very first recipient,” said Riddick in the celebration. “I know my mom and everybody is very proud of me. I just want to say thank you for taking that chance on me. My goal is to make everyone proud.”

Aaron Armstrong received the Josiah “Woody” Woodington Memorial Scholarship for $5,000 for a senior pursuing a maritime career or marine industry trade. Armstrong plans to pursue a career as a diver.

“I kind of knew in the back of my head that college wasn’t for me and that something different would be my route,” said Armstrong at the celebration. “When it came to diving, I just fell in love with it.”

The award celebration also gave students a chance to win extra scholarship money and prizes. Students could participate in a “Walk Your Walk” challenge through TikTok. Students videoed themselves creatively walking in their cap and gown since they could not walk across a physical stage. Viewers voted in the comments on their favorite walk. Some students received a letter to participate in the Virginia 529 On the Spot Scholarship. Students texted the number to have a chance to win an extra $1,000 scholarship in a virtual raffle.

“I encouraged all my students who didn’t receive a scholarship to tune in and see if they could win something,” said Miller. “My goal is to do everything I can to bridge the financial gap of getting to college.”