RICHMOND, Va. -- With tuition prices rising and record inflation, some families are getting creative about how they're paying for college for their students.
But two Central Virginia students going to school on full scholarships said a college readiness program has changed their lives.
Ameer West, a Hermitage High School grad on his way to college on a full band scholarship, is marching to the beat of his own drum.
“My next chapter is I'm going off to Norfolk State to major in music education,” West said. “I'm excited, I can't wait.”
West is among the ranks of the 500 Partnership For The Future (PFF) student leaders poised to make their mark on the world thanks to the college readiness program that preps students for success starting their freshman year.
Both West and student Camille Martin, a rising JMU Freshman who earned the prestigious Centennial Scholarship, said the PFF program has been “pretty life changing.”
Students were recognized at the nonprofit's Reaching For The Stars Ceremony for earning more than $15 million in college scholarships.
PFF President and CEO Dionne Henderson said it has been amazing to watch these students learn, work and grow.
“Our students have gone through so much over the last couple of years. Their lives have been disrupted. But our students persevered, maintained their grades and it's really exciting to see them fulfill their dreams of going to college as many of our students are first-generation college students,” Henderson said.
Martin plans to majoring in psychology with a minor in African American studies.
“I kind of want to do a lot. I want to by the end of it, become a sports psychologist,” Martin said.
West plans to get a degree in music so he can become a band director.
PFF leaders said a critical component is workforce readiness. Students appreciate that and say it helps prepare them for real life.
“Our students typically intern for three consecutive summers. Paid internships while they are in high school and we match up to two thousand dollars that they save in a VA 529 account,” Henderson said.
Martin said her internship with the nonprofit Big Brothers, Big Sisters was beneficial.
“They've taught me a lot about marketing and how they do certain things with their social media. So, I've learned a lot,” Martin said.
The student leaders are keeping their sights set on a successful future that awaits.
“It's a gift that God gave me. He didn't give it to me for no reason. He gave it to me for a reason,” West said. “I feel like me getting the scholarship, they see something in me and he gave something to me, like I need to take it serious and do something with it and not play around with it.”