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  • Dereon Coleman

Juniors Want More Scholarships

The Access College Foundation at Churchland High School has for many years offered students help with college-related matters. The foundation, established in 1988 by two Norfolk businessmen, aids middle, high, and college students with scholarships, FAFSA, prep, applying, plans after high school, fee waivers, SAT and ACT, and the like. 

The Access College Foundation is a program in all Virginia schools and neighboring schools. This foundation services approximately 80,000 students. Each school has a certain advisor that assists students; Churchland High School's advisor is Shawn Foster. 

The purpose of this program is to help juniors and seniors apply for scholarships, colleges and prep them. Albeit some people think that the focus is more on the seniors than anything. This school year, there have only been about 2 or 3 junior class meetings discussing  the importance of the foundation. Most of the time the advisors conduct one-on-one meetings with students exploring their future; however, that doesn’t always apply to juniors.

One major thing that the juniors and seniors have to see the opportunities they have is on a Schoology page. For the juniors there page is called “Class of 2025,” and the seniors is called “Class of 2024.”  Information is posted on the senior page often, sometimes even multiple times a day. The first post regarding college was posted on October 2, 2023 and the most recent was posted January 25, 2024. There are over 71 scholarships posted on these pages.

Shawn Foster has now been an advisor for 8 years. Foster explained that there are scholarships available for juniors, but that pales in comparison to seniors. 

“We honestly only get scholarships mainly for seniors. I don’t have control over that,” she says.  She states that one major reason this happens is because juniors tend to have a lot of thinking to do; one day you plan to go to college, then the next you don’t. 

Also students don’t know which college they'll get accepted into, and most colleges require you to already be pursuing a career path. Colleges want to know where students are going and how much money they'll be getting, which juniors have no knowledge of yet.  

Foster explains, “You can have in your head going somewhere, but you don't know how much money you're getting and they don’t want to reward it if you're getting a full ride.”

Many ideas have been put out on how juniors should have colleges come out and talk to them. The program has something similar with a college and career fair for juniors on March 26th in the Churchland gymnasium where everyone has a chance to go for 45 minutes. It is predicted to have over 50 colleges and careers come to the school. 

“If they don’t go, that's not my fault,” Foster said in response to saying that this is a big opportunity. 

She adds that there is a college and career carnival on April 27th at Portsmouth City Park. Closer to the spring time she says she opens up to have colleges come talk to juniors, although she says it's challenging because she’s attempting to get the seniors first since they are leaving sooner. Another suggestion made by students are college tours, which only 2 students are picked from their Access profile.

Foster added that she isn’t the only person dealing with scholarships, which is unknown to many. Ms.Tuft-Williams is a guidance counselor, along with a  member of both of the Schoology pages and she posts information on the pages also. Since Tuft-Williams is still a counselor she has other tasks to do; for example, at the moment counselors are dealing with freshmen schedules. 

While Foster was being interviewed, she was emailing other non-profits about scholarships to post on the Class of 2025 Schoology page. She has emailed all students an opportunity to register for a college tour to Virginia State, Elizabeth City, University of Richmond and Chowan University. Some students may be oblivious to that fact if they do not click on albums in the junior page. There is a list of scholarships spanning from 9-12 and giving all the requirements.

Derrick Watkins is a math teacher at Churchland High School. Watkins is beloved by many students and staff and he plays a significant role with helping students know about their SOLs and GPA.  

Watkins says that, “While the resources may be there, the process is not in place for juniors to receive the information they need,” after being asked if he thought there were enough resources for juniors. 

Many students do not know how to apply for colleges and/or scholarships, while some are not ready, which Watkins agrees with. 

“I think when they have their class meetings, meetings with their school counselors scholarships should definitely be a prioritized discussion because it’s vital to those kids that want to go to school.” 

Watkins stated as an idea the school should further enforce to support students. 

Last school year, a new librarian came in by the name of Tiffany Walker. Walker was an elementary school specialist and teacher before becoming a librarian. Walker suggests that the school should make announcements, Schoology posts, and flyers around the school to give students information about scholarships. She adds that the Access Foundation members should try to be more visible to the junior class by visiting the students' classrooms often. 

Walker voiced her opinion on the guidance counselors saying that the weight of helping students in these types of situations should be put on them. She spoke about how when she was in high school counselors would have one-on-one meetings with students since there weren't any programs like the Access College Foundation. 

“I feel like the guidance office drops the ball with that,” said Walker, explaining that counselors should help out more frequently. 

Ahnya Madison, a junior at Churchland searching for scholarships, states that her sophomore year her GPA dropped to a 2.1 at one moment due to lack of effort. This past semester it fluctuated, but now her GPA stands at a 2.3 and she is striving to bring it up to apply for scholarships. Madison says she struggled to find scholarships because of this. She suggests that juniors should go on the college fair field trips like seniors do to discover more colleges in her range. 

Another idea she proposed was not only just the juniors, but also seniors taking college tours with the school. She was asked if she thinks that Foster is helpful to the junior class and replied, “Yes, the little Schoology page that she posts on is really helpful.” 

Anazia Valentine is a part of the senior class at Churchland High School. She’s supposed to be in the junior class but is graduating early. Last month, Valentine was accepted into Norfolk State University. Although Churchland is very active with Norfolk State, trying to get students accepted, she did not receive assistance from the school. She has said that she’s looking for scholarships and when she was told that Churchland helps with that she was shocked. 

Valentine was asked if she had any help by the school's advisor Ms.Foster.  “No, I don’t even know who Ms.Foster is.” Although she doesn’t know who Foster is, Valentine has heard about some of the actions she took to aid students getting opportunities. Valentine suggested that Foster should make herself known to all students, especially the seniors, for they are who she works with the most.

Everyone knows that assisting seniors is important due to the fact that they are leaving soon, but  acknowledging juniors is just as important. Just like the seniors, people suggest that there should be college advisors coming to the school and informing the juniors about scholarships, financial aid, applying to the school, and more. 

Even though juniors feel unsatisfied with their resources, they will just have to wait to get all of the opportunities. The school's guidance counselors should help more, so that the responsibility isn’t just put on one person. Some people may have a negative opinion on how the program is structured,but the Access Foundation is a great program to help students that aren’t financially stable or in need of guidance.

Photo Credit: Dereon Coleman


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