Virginia College Advising Corps
Credit: Dan Addison, University of Virginia Communications

Charlottesville is a town we love for its energy, grand architecture, and its homegrown community of musicians, makers, and artists. Charlottesville is also a town of tremendous resilience. Though it will take time to heal from the tragic events of the weekend of August 11th, we're determined to shine a spotlight on all the good coming out of this beloved Virginia town. And there's certainly a lot of it.

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One such organization worthy of that spotlight is the University of Virginia's Virginia College Advising Corps (VCAC). The nonprofit serves 28 partner high schools around the entire Commonwealth, pairing recent college graduates with students as they prepare for college. Founded in 2005, the latest batch of college advisers were announced this week. Comprised of 24 graduates, these young leaders will spend the next two years working for VCAC.

"They will [work] with students who might otherwise not think about higher education," reads a University statement "The advisers help students navigate financial aid questions, arrange college visits and assist with college preparation."

Their impact is palpable, with many first-generation and low-income students receiving the mentorship they need to make it through the tricky—and often overwhelming— college application process. Of course, it's also a rewarding experience for the advisers to see the fruits of their labor.

"College advisers look for the knowledge and skills that each student possesses, helping to find an individualized post-secondary plan based on match and fit," Joy Pugh, Director, Virginia College Advising Corps tells Southern Living. "Our work is about creating opportunity for students by illuminating their options, then providing support and resources as they pursue those options." In the future, the organization is hopeful VCAC will continue to be a success. "We expect the results to be consistent, that thousands more Virginians will enter and complete higher education because of VCAC," added Pugh.

According to the University's news release, in 2016 through 2017, Virginia College Advisers served 5,184 seniors and 1,126 parents, and sent out 2,667 financial aid submissions, which is a leading indicator of a student's plan to proceed to college. VCAC also helped students to secure more than $39 million in institutional aid, and more than $6 million in scholarships.

But the organization is about more than numbers and statistics. The connections these advisers forge with their mentees is lasting and meaningful, on both ends. As Donnell Wright, a VCAC adviser put it on the organization's website, "I serve because I was once in their shoes. A first generation student who wanted to do something with my life, but did not know how. I want to help mold their dreams and aspirations as they matriculate into higher education."