All 15 high school graduates from the pilot year of AHC Inc.’s new college guidance program will progress into higher education.
This year, the seniors applied to 71 schools and were accepted into 54. Together, they received nearly $500,000 in scholarship money, including full rides to Georgetown University and the University of Pennsylvania. Many of the students are the first members of their family to attend college.
AHC, an Arlington-based affordable housing provider, hosted a celebration Monday night at the Lyon Park Community Center for the graduates, their families and mentors.
The free mentoring program is part of AHC’s resident services program, which began in 1993. The initiative is designed to provide students of all ages with something productive to do in their afternoons.
The program includes after-school activities for elementary school students, tutoring for middle and high school students and now a mentoring program to help high school seniors with the college process.
Each senior is paired with an adult for an entire year. The mentors aid their students with the college process, including financial aid, essays and scholarship applications.
Jasmine Connor began working with her mentor, Marjorie Macieria, in the fall.
“Working with Marjorie was the best. We clicked,” Connor said.
The two met weekly, primarily focusing on scholarship applications, of which Connor has received two: the “We Are the Dream” oratorical scholarship and the Arlington School Administrators Spirit Award. The scholarships will help fund Connor’s ambition to graduate debt-free from Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University.
Connor plans to pursue a major in Early Childhood Development with a minor in Special Education. She has been inspired by her own teachers to help students with learning disabilities.
“Just because you have a learning disability, that doesn’t mean anything,” she said. ”I have one and I got two scholarships and I’m going to college.”
Kyle Yapching-Galang began working with his mentor, Carter Vaden, in the seventh grade. Initially, she tutored him in French and then branched out to help him with English. While Vaden did not help Yapching-Galang with his college applications, she has been a part of his school career for six years.
“She’s a really good friend who helps me when I’m struggling or when I’m angsty,” Yapching-Galang said.
Vaden said she has seen Yapching-Galang grown from a shy middle-schooler into a confident adult. Yapching-Galang plans to attend Northern Virginia Community College in the fall.
Zanab Farooq has been attending AHC’s programs since pre-school. Yet, she credits her mentor of the past year, Joseph Maltby, for helping her get into college.
“I don’t think I would’ve gotten into college without him,” Farooq said. “He knew what to do, what not to do and how to stay on top of things.”
Farooq will be attending the University of Mary Washington in the fall, where she hopes to major in Marketing. With various scholarships secured, all she has to pay for is textbooks and a meal plan.
During the celebratory dinner, guest speaker and local Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) said he was proud of the graduates’ achievements.
“You are what we need. You are medicine,” he said. “You are the source of pleasure and accomplishment and hope for everything that ails every community. Your thirst for education and knowledge and the fact that you’ve done it, says so much about you.”