AHC Celebrates 20 High School Grads – All First in Family to Attend College

In early June, AHC Inc. honored 20 high school graduates during a special celebration with families, mentors, education leaders, and much applause. School Board member Tannia Talento was the keynote speaker.

AHC’s Class of 2018’s achievements are remarkable. Perhaps most life-changing, ALL of the students are the first in their families to attend college.

Their future hopes and dreams are wide-ranging, including cyber security, film and media studies, special education, mechanical engineering, criminal justice, auto mechanics, architecture, social work, animation, civil engineering, pre-med, international relations and psychology.

Together, the group earned more than $613,000 in scholarships. Two students received full-tuition scholarships. Flor Caceres is attending Lafayette College through the POSSE Foundation. And, Ruth Mengesha is going to James Madison University through the Centennial Scholars Program.

The students are participants in AHC’s College & Career Readiness Program, a component of AHC’s overall education initiative that provides after-school, teen, and summer camp programs in the affordable apartment communities where students live. Many of the graduates have grown up in AHC’s programs. Three of this year’s class started in Kindergarten.

Lydia Abraha, who has participated in AHC’s programs since she was six, believes the program has helped her become who she is today. “I’ve built many relationships with staff members and tutors that have influenced my life,” says Abraha. “I can’t imagine my life without the memories and positive impact AHC has provided me.” A dedicated student, Abraha was accepted into eight colleges. She chose Virginia Tech because she received the Virginia Tech Inclusive Student Excellence Scholarship and plans to study mechanical engineering.

Along with students’ hard work, the College and Career Planning program succeeds thanks to mentors who work one-on-one with students throughout their senior year. Volunteers help students keep up their grades and navigate college and scholarship applications. Their commitment produces real results. This year, students applied to 93 colleges and universities and were accepted into 65.

Over the years, many of the students and mentors have developed lasting relationships. “We will definitely stay in touch,” said Undrakh Tsend, who is attending the College of William and Mary, and has worked with tutor Lisa Martin since 8th grade. “She is my mentor and my best friend, too,” said Tsend.

Mentor Alex Payne also hopes to keep in touch with Victor Orellana, who is enrolled in the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Pathways Program. “The mentoring program has been rewarding and productive for both of us,” says Payne. “We’ll definitely keep in touch and I hope he keeps me updated when he registers for classes.” Orellana, who hopes to be a graphic designer or animator, agrees. “I hope we stay friends forever,” he says.

AHC’s College & Career Readiness Program is part of AHC’s comprehensive commitment to “Housing + Education = Success.” The organization’s goal is to provide educational opportunities and social services to help individuals and families build stable lives, put down roots and become strong community members.

Many thanks to Project Discovery Virginia and Arlington Public Schools for their support of our students and our programs.

AHC Class of 2018 Students

Umniya Abdu (Virginia Commonwealth University), Lydia Abraha (Virginia Tech), Dayana Albarado (George Mason University), Sharon Albarado (George Mason University), Flor Caceres (Lafayette College), Flavia Dominguez (George Mason University), Kiana Flores (Northern Virginia Community College), Christopher Lozano (Northern Virginia Community College), Katelyn Ly (James Madison University), Ruth Mengesha (James Madison University), Carlos Orellana (Northern Virginia Community College), Victor Orellana (Northern Virginia Community College), Bibho Prasai (Northern Virginia Community College), Daniel Rodriguez (Northern Virginia Community College), Bryan Sanchez (Northern Virginia Community College), Ainood Soliman (George Mason University), Carlos Soliz (Northern Virginia Community College), Undrakh Tsend (College of William and Mary), Minjin Uranbayar (James Madison University) and Katerin Villegas (Northern Virginia Community College).

2017/2018 Mentors

Tim Bellaire, Jim Burridge, Terry Burridge, Rachel Cosgray, Christina Ann Dietrich, Jean Falvey, Evan Heit, Cindy Kaang, Alexandra Lucas, Christine Mader, Lisa Martin, Katie Masterson, Judy Palmore, Alex Payne, Jonathan Roose, Kathryn Sheehan, Sharon Showalter, David Slater, Ann Symonds, Jennifer Ukegbu, Gary Usrey and Maria Woolverton.

Photos from the graduation celebration.

For volunteer opportunities, visit https://www.ahcinc.org/get-involved/volunteers/

Photo: From left to right: Flor Caceres (Lafayette College), Bibho Prasai (Northern Virginia Community College) and Undrakh Tsend (College of William and Mary) participated in AHC’s education programs at Woodbury Park/Frederick Community Center.


Founded in 1975, AHC Inc. is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the mid-Atlantic region that provides quality homes and education programs for low- and moderate-income families. Based in Arlington, VA, AHC has developed more than 7,000 apartment units in 50+ properties in Virginia,  Maryland and Washington, DC. AHC’s Resident Services program reaches 3,000 children, teens, adults and seniors each year through onsite education programs and activities.