By Callie Hietala
As the new year approaches, it is time for high school seniors contemplating college to begin applying for scholarships. At Martinsville High School (MHS), staff are hard at work making sure students and their families are aware of the many scholarship opportunities available, the application deadlines, and are even on hand to provide help filling out application forms for colleges, scholarships, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Aji Dixon, principal, introduced the school’s new college advisor, Marcia Hairston, to the city’s school board at its December meeting.
Hairston said she is employed by the Virginia College Advising Corps (VCAC). “The mission of VCAC is to increase the number of low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented high school students who enter and complete higher education.”
Her role at MHS is to help students find a plan or pathway post-graduation, whether that be a 2- or 4-year college, entering a trade school, military enlistment, a gap year, or entering the workforce.
She said the school has hosted a FAFSA night to help students begin or complete the student aid form. Of the 16 or 17 students that attended, many completed the application that night and the rest shortly thereafter.
During the recent Virginia college application week, “we set up shop in the library pretty much all week, and helped students fill out their FAFSA form, college application, SEED (application) forms,” and other documents.
Dixon praised the SEED Fund, a partnership between the Harvest Foundation and Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC), which guarantees two years of free college at P&HCC for a generation of qualifying students in Martinsville and Henry County, from this year’s senior class to students who just started kindergarten.
“That’s not a small deal whatsoever. That’s huge,” Dixon said. “Kindergarten children know today they can go to school for at least two years and save thousands of dollars. Not every community has that.”
Dixon reassured the board that any information shared with Hairston or other counsellors in the application process, including information about household income, is confidential.
“We wouldn’t be asking for this information if not for the fact that it’s needed to get the grants and scholarships they receive,” many of which are income-based, he said.
Dixon said that the first part of the semester is usually busy with early decision applications and decisions, while the second semester is usually busy with regular decision applications.
“Next semester really picks up,” he said, particularly in terms of scholarship application deadlines and announcements of students who will receive awards.
Some scholarships have application deadlines beginning as early as mid-January, Dixon told the board, including the $2,500 Virginia Daughters of the American Revolution Nursing Scholarship (Jan. 12), the $1,000 Charity League of Martinsville and Henry County Scholarships (Jan. 15), and scholarships in various amounts from the Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia (Jan. 14).
“You can find scholarships as high as $30,000 or you can find some at $500,” Dixon said.
Information about available scholarships can be found on Martinsville City Public Schools’ website, www.martinsville.k12.va.us, under the Students tab. Dixon urged parents and students to check the page early and often to get the most up-to-date information on available scholarships.
Parents or students with questions can contact Hairston directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (276) 403-5782.
In other matters, the board:
*Waived the community service hours requirement for Martinsville High School students for the second year in a row. The request was made due to concerns about student safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
*Appointed Miyana Smith as clerk and Jill Collins as deputy clerk beginning in 2022.
*Heard from Communications and Community Outreach Coordinator Parker Gunn about recent student activities.
*Heard from Joanie Petty, director of the Boys & Girls Club, about the ongoing partnership between the club and the school system and the number of children enrolled in club activities.
*Shared feedback from the recent Virginia School Board Association conference.
*Approved the consent agenda.
*Heard the Superintendent’s report.
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