By John Patterson
The CAMPUS Class of 2017 and their families braved a thunderstorm Tuesday night to celebrate their completion of the program with a ceremony at Rock Ridge High School. The weather wasn’t the first obstacle these students had overcome: most of them will be the first in their family to go to college.
CAMPUS is a college preparatory program founded in the spring of 2002. It has a specific goal for a specific group: Take Loudoun County high schoolers who are potential first-generation college students, of a racial minority or socioeconomically disadvantaged, and help them become college graduates. Most students apply the spring of their eighth grade year and participate in the program their entire high school career. Today, the program is approaching enrollment of 500 students from all 15 of Loudoun County’s public schools.
More than 100 of those students will graduate in a couple of weeks. At Tuesday’s ceremony, all the graduates got a certificate, a rose and a special cord for their graduation robes, and most got a hug from their program instructor.
Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) delivered the keynote address.
“College is fun, exciting, scary. Full of changes and discovery,” Saines said. “You think you know who you are now; my friends, I have news for you. The person you are entering into college right now will not be the same person you exit.”
Many of the students the supervisor spoke to will be the first in their family to attend college. According to Anthony Bauer, the school system’s supervisor of school counseling, about 85 to 90 percent of the CAMPUS Class of 2017 will be first-generation college students. Ninety-five present of the students are racial minorities, according to Chris Clarke, director of the CAMPUS program.
After Saines’s address, retired Del. Joe T. May presented the Loudoun Laurels Stewardship Scholarship winners, Park View’s Haydee Portillo and Stone Bridge’s Zyonne Martin, who were both surprised at the news. Each received a $10,000 scholarship toward any college’s tuition.
Portillo and Martin will both attend Virginia Tech University this fall, and they’re not the only CAMPUS students with plans for higher education. Ninety-five percent of the CAMPUS Class of 2017 are heading to college next fall. CAMPUS will track these students’ college graduation rate to measure the program’s success.
“It’s not only about how you start; it’s about how you finish,” Clarke said. He hopes the CAMPUS students apply the time management, work ethic and goal-setting skills that the program taught them to succeed in college and their careers.