135 graduates receive scholarships and support from local charity

OUTLET: The Virginian-Pilot

Elarraine Laureta, 18, loves children and dreams of becoming a pediatrician. The problem until now was that she didn’t think that her family could afford the tuition.

Like her friend, 17-year-old DeAsia James, Elarraine is now one of 135 graduates in the Class of 2017 to receive a scholarship and support with the application process from ACCESS College Foundation.

The charity, founded by Frank Batten Sr. and Joshua Darden in 1988, provides scholarships for high school graduates in South Hampton Roads and Northampton County. Counselors also guide students through the cumbersome process of applying for college and financial aid, said Amy Hall, ACCESS Advisor for Ocean Lakes and Salem high schools.

The students received their awards June 22 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. Keynote speaker S. Bernard Goodwyn, a Virginia Supreme Court Justice, encouraged the graduates to define their own goals and to take advantage of opportunities.

“You have to decide for yourself what success means to you,” Goodwyn said. “You have the tools necessary to achieve that success if you work hard and persevere.”

For Ellarraine, who plans to major in biology at the University of Virginia, the scholarship means that she can pursue a dream that she’s had since she was in the seventh grade, when she began working in the nursery of her church, Doulos for Christ.

“I wanted to make sure that kids were healthy, well-cared for and loved,” said Ellarraine, a Green Run High graduate and the daughter of Larry and Eden Laureta. “When I got the certificate, I was so excited. ACCESS has really blessed our lives.”

Like Ellarraine, DeAsia, who is also a Green Run graduate, needed financial assistance but hoped to avoid deep debt. The daughter of Chiquita and Arthur James, she is going to Old Dominion University, where she plans to major in International Studies.

DeAsia is thrilled with the scholarship, but receiving assistance with the application process was invaluable.

“ACCESS helped with the application process,” DeAsia said. “They really helped me to stay on task and focused.”

So what advice would DeAsia have for a rising college senior who wants to attend college?

“Start the application process early,” DeAsia said. “Start in the fall, and don’t be afraid to see your guidance counselor if you need help.”

For more information about the ACCESS College Foundation, visit www.accesscollege.org.