More than 30 high-school seniors gathered at the Loudoun County Public School Administration Building Thursday to celebrate their success.
Seniors participating in CAMPUS, which stands for College Achievement — a Minority Program for Unique Students, were recognized for "beating the odds," said Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick.
CAMPUS is an academic and college preparation initiative for minority students and students who would be the first in their family to attend college. Through the program, students go on college tours and attend financial aid and other information sessions.
THE CAMPUS application process is a rigorous one. Students submit applications and teacher recommendations in the eighth grade. After a sit-down interview with a CAMPUS committee, made up of middle-school and high-school guidance counselors and teachers, students are selected to participate in the program.
Margie Rodriguez is the mother of a recently selected CAMPUS student. Her daughter, Criselda Rodriguez, is a Simpson Middle School eighth-grader.
"We’re participating in the program to get a head start on college," Margie Rodriguez said. "We want to get her on the right track."
Criselda Rodriguez said she is excited to start touring college campuses in the fall. She hopes to go to the University of Texas, but says, she knows she has a lot of time to think about it.
On Thursday night, Hatrick applauded those CAMPUS students, like Criselda Rodriguez, who chose to be a part of the program.
"You had the courage at some point prior to this event to be a part of the CAMPUS program," Hatrick said. "It has been a team effort, but you have been the captain of that team."
All 36 CAMPUS seniors plan to attend either two- or four-year colleges.
"For some of you, you’re the first person to go to college in your family," he said. "I was the first to go to college in my family, at a time when less than 25 percent of students in Loudoun County went on to college. I am so proud of you."
ANNE LEWIS, LCPS guidance and health-services supervisor, created the CAMPUS program with the help of a group of guidance counselors, in the spring of 2002. The goal of the program is to provide support and encouragement to students who might need a little extra help with the college process.
"This program is for first generation students and minority students," she said. "It’s for students who have the ability to go to college, but might need extra support to make college a reality."
Potomac Falls High School senior Silvia Brown was Lewis’ first CAMPUS student.
"Her mom dropped her off an hour early," Lewis said. "She was the first CAMPUS student I met."
Four years later, Brown shook Lewis’ hand, ready to attend Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., in the fall. The National Honor Society member plans to study graphic design there.
Lewis draped gold ropes around Brown’s neck, so "family members and friends will be able to recognize CAMPUS students at graduation," she said.
"We saw a need so we created this program," Lewis said.
Although she would like to provide help to all Loudoun County high-school students, Lewis said she’s "not staffed that heartily." The program began with 36 students and now serves 272 students in grades nine through 12.
CESAR MANCIA is one of those students. The Potomac Falls High School senior will graduate June 2.
On May 27, 2005, Mancia joined the Army National Guard. He will pay for college with the assistance of the G.I. Bill. Mancia plans to attend Northern Virginia Community College in the fall and transfer to George Mason University as a sophomore. He said the assistance he got from the CAMPUS program got him to where he is today.
The CAMPUS student gave advice to the incoming freshman Thursday.
"Don’t over think problems," he said. "Reminisce about them after you’ve defeated them."
As the night came to an end, keynote speaker Patricia J. Martin, vice president of the College Board National Office of School Counselor Advocacy, gave some advice to seniors.
"No one rises to low expectations. You must aim high," she said.
She reminded the students to thank their parents for their success.
"Think about the people that came before you. They did something way back when to make way for your success," Martin said. "Your opportunities are on the backs of those people."