College-Bound Students Achieving Dreams
Choosing a college can be challenging for teens—even more so for youth who are the first in their family to attend college. Last month, Project Discovery took 16 T.C. Williams High School students on a tour of the University of Pennsylvania, the first of several college and university visits coordinated by the program to help first-generation and other college-bound students access opportunities in higher education.
According to the Council of Independent Colleges, first-generation college students face a number of significant challenges in comparison to their peers. They are more likely to come from low income families and about two-fifths of first-generation students are people of color. Many first-generation students also lack support from family members due to their unfamiliarity with the collegiate experience, and they have not been provided with the same exposure to financial information and other resources, thereby impacting their ability to make well informed decisions about the college application and selection processes as well as financial aid options.
Based at T.C. Williams and the Minnie Howard Ninth Grade Center, Project Discovery helps prepare an average of 130 low income and first-generation college-eligible students each year to achieve their secondary education dreams through college tours, information on college admissions and financial aid, workshops on topics such as life skills and career planning, and ongoing support and encouragement.
“Project Discovery plays an integral role in introducing high school students to the college experience,” says Youth Development Counselor Kim Hurley. “Participants are offered support through the selection and application process and opportunities to explore an array of college campus settings as well as scholarship competitions for graduating seniors and program alumni.”
Last year, 100 percent of Project Discovery graduating seniors continued their education at two- or four-year colleges or technical schools.
“Project Discovery has been and still is a valuable asset in preparing first-generation and other college-bound students for post secondary education since 1988,” says Youth Development Counselor Rashad Price, who led the student tour last month. “Hundreds of first-generation college students have come through the program and gone on to attend and graduate college and have successful careers.”
The college tours are selected to include a combination of institution sizes, Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and schools suggested by students.
Next month, Price will take a group of students to Delaware State University. In the spring, nine students will have the opportunity to participate in an overnight HBCU college tour. Campus visits will include Fisk University, Tennessee State University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Alabama State University and Tuskegee University.
Project Discovery is supported by the Project Discovery Advisory Board, whose mission is to raise funds, promote community involvement and foster positive public relations. The Board is made up of local professionals from different occupations and backgrounds, some of whom are graduates of Project Discovery, with the goal of assisting students in achieving their secondary education goals.
To learn more about Project Discovery, including testimonies and opportunities to donate to the program, visit alexandriava.gov/ProjectDiscovery.