With brand new college t-shirts and big smiles, 20 high school seniors proudly announced where they are going to college during AHC Inc.’s recent College Signing Day. The students, participants in AHC’s College & Career Readiness Program, are all the first in their families to achieve this milestone. AHC, a nonprofit affordable housing developer, provides a variety of onsite services for residents, including education programs for youth.
Going to college is a life-changing achievement. College graduates, on average, earn 56% more than high school grads, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Earning a college degree will change these students’ lives as well as the lives of their families.
Housing + Education = Success is one of AHC’s key philosophies. Along with building and preserving affordable apartment communities, AHC also provides a variety of onsite services for residents, including education programs for youth. The organization’s goal is to help individuals and families build stable lives, put down roots and become strong community members.
Celebrating with the teens were volunteer mentors, AHC Inc. staff, parents, representatives from Arlington Public Schools and leaders from Project Discovery of Virginia, a statewide program that provides resources and tools to help students stay in school and successfully access post-secondary education.
The students are planning to attend a variety of schools, including the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, Lafayette College, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Pathways Program, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech.
Youth are considering a wide range of careers, including criminal justice, mechanical engineering, film and media studies, cyber security, special education, architecture, graphic design, pre-med or nursing, game design, social work, math education, history, civil engineering, and international relations.
“I am incredibly proud of all of our students,” said Milenka Coronel, College & Career Readiness Manager. “They have worked so hard to get to this day.”
Initiated in 2016, AHC’s College & Career Readiness Program helps high school seniors successfully transition to the next step. The program pairs students with adult volunteer mentors who help teens succeed academically and also navigate the challenges of college applications and scholarship opportunities.
“The mentor/student relationship is the secret sauce of our program,” explained Coronel. “They work one-on-one for a full year and develop a real partnership. Signing Day was as exciting for the mentors as it was for the students.”
Several students earned significant scholarships.
Flor Caceres, for instance, earned a POSSE Foundation Scholarship, a four-year, full-tuition leadership merit scholarship that also includes mentoring, leadership training, and career preparation. Flor will be attending Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.
Ruth Megesha received the James Madison University Centennial Scholars Program, a full, four-year scholarship, which also provides financial assistance and multi-level academic support.
The College & Career Readiness Program is the culmination of AHC’s multi-faceted education program, which also includes an after-school program and summer camp for elementary students plus tutoring for teens. For more than 10 years, 100% of the seniors in the program have successfully graduated from high school.
Many students have grown up in the program. Lydia Abraha and Katelyn Ly have been involved since kindergarten. And Carlos Soliz started in elementary school.
“Our Resident Services program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, works so well because we provide programs where people live,” explained Susan Davidson, AHC’s Director of Resident Services.
Lydia, one of the 2018 graduates, joined AHC’s education program when she was in kindergarten. She and her family lived at the Berkeley Apartments all her life and recently moved to another AHC property while the Berkeley is being renovated.
One of her favorite memories is how her long-time mentor, Tim Bellaire, helped her master freshman math. “I think I actually started getting into what I wanted to do for college thanks to his influence in math and encouragement to work hard,” says Lydia.
Since then, Lydia’s math skills have expanded significantly. At AHC’s College Signing Day, she announced she is going to Virginia Tech to study mechanical engineering. And, just as he’s been doing since Lydia was in middle school, Tim Bellaire was there to cheer her on.
For volunteer opportunities, visit https://www.ahcinc.org/get-involved/volunteers/
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.