One student thought his schedule was being changed. Another worried she might be in trouble.
But when the eight Huguenot High School freshmen called to the school’s forum room walked in on Tuesday, they found a stage decorated in the maroon and steel of Virginia Union University, and good news: They’d secured full academic scholarships.
“Assuming you [maintain your grades, keep working hard and graduate], and I have every confidence that you will, you have a free ride for your entire education at VUU,” Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras told the students, among 50 ninth-graders who learned Tuesday that they’d been selected for the partnership between the system and private university.
Jordan Braxton, one of the scholarship recipients at Huguenot High School, said she was overwhelmed and thankful. She wasn’t sure she could have afforded college without the help.
“I’m really excited. I really didn’t think I was going to get it,” said Braxton, who hopes to become a doctor who cares for newborns.
Asia Dudley, another Huguenot High School recipient, said getting the scholarship will free her from having to get student loans to pay for her education.
“This helps my future because college is a big deal to me,” said Dudley, who plans to pursue a teaching degree.
Huguenot Principal Rob Gilstrap said about 40% of the roughly 300 seniors who graduate from the high school each year go on to college and another 20% go into the military. A big barrier to seeking a higher education is the cost, the principal said.
Gilstrap said the scholarship gives students a strong motivation to graduate from high school.
“A lot of our students work four years and finish high school, and then they don’t have this guarantee that they can go to college,” Gilstrap said. “They may want to, but financially or for other reasons in their family it may not be possible, but if they had this guarantee at the end of the four years, I think it would definitely increase their chances of sticking it out when it gets tough.”
Justin Pair, another Huguenot freshman who received the scholarship, said he plans to study computer engineering so he can work as a mechanic. Pair said getting the scholarship is a relief given the intimidating cost of paying for college.
“It relieves stress off my parents and myself,” Pair said.
The full cost to attend VUU is currently about $27,000 a year, said Maurice W. Campbell, the school’s senior vice president for corporate and external affairs.
“This actually gives the students the ability to know that, no matter what, they have the ability and somewhere to go to college in the future,” Campbell said of the scholarship.
There will be a formal event at VUU on Oct. 5 for the 50 students who received the scholarships and their families.