Guides help students pick college path

Clockwise from top, U.Va. guide Vivian Uwanaka is seen with Martinsville High School students Carissa Fleming, Kishera Reid, Porsha Carden, Jermiesha Childress and Kiarah Penn.

June 3, 2008

The Harvest Foundation launched the program in 2005 to enable U.Va. graduates to serve two-year terms as the liaison between students and colleges.

“The U.Va. College Guide Program gives us guidance so that we know exactly what steps to take, have help when we have questions and complete each part of the application on time,” said Carissa Fleming, a senior at Martinsville High School.

The three guides — one each in Bassett, Martinsville and Magna Vista high schools — consider each student individually and advise the students in preparation for, but not limiting them to, the universities they feel are best suited for them, according to a Harvest release. They offer a recent and up-front perspective on college life.

Kiarah Penn, who will graduate from Martinsville High School on Saturday, added that, “The program lets students know about their options, about financial aid, scholarships and opportunities that some students had no idea about.”

In addition to working to increase the level of college enrollment for the Henry County-Martinsville area, the guides also work with the career coaches at Patrick Henry Community College.

While it is designed to serve students, the program also has benefited the guides.

“The College Guide Program has provided me with an opportunity to advocate for students and families in my community, and as a result of that it, has significantly shaped what it means to me to truly function as an intermediary and immerse myself in a cause that is greater than me,” said Vivian Uwanaka, a guide for Martinsville High School for the past two years.

Though her term as a guide is drawing to a close, Uwanaka said she feels her efforts have been successful. She added that she has seen an increase in the number of students who take a greater interest in pursuing education beyond high school.

Martinsville High School student Kishera Reid is grateful for “the constant encouragement Ms. Uwanaka gave to all of us to keep going.” Reid said Uwanaka took her students on college visits and stressed the importance of preparing for college-level work so that students can thrive in the future.

Uwanaka also said she has helped foster the hopes and dreams of her students. MHS student Qualese Brown acknowledged her work, telling Uwanaka, “You are a person who can help people just because you feel it is the right thing to do, and I think that’s one of the things God has you here for, and I appreciate you and thank you for everything that you have done for me.”

Harvest allotted a three-year, $252,900 grant to fund the U.Va. Guides, and their eight-week training session, in the Martinsville-Henry County area.

Alison Rothrock, interim executive director of Harvest, said the University of Virginia would have to apply for funds to continue the program. If it does, the application will be discussed and a decision will be made by Harvest on future funding.

The Harvest Foundation was established in 2002 from the sale of the Memorial Hospital in Martinsville. It invests the proceeds of that sale in health, education and welfare initiatives in the area.

A fourth guide, Lucy Hart Peaden, worked at Patrick County High School this year. Her position was funded by the Patrick County Education Foundation.


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