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The Blue & Gray Press | August 22, 2019

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Rappahannock Scholars program changes lives

Rappahannock Scholars program changes lives


The Rappahannock Scholars program was created in 2007. The program places six high schools in the Northern Neck region of Virginia in partnership with the University of Mary Washington. These six high schools include Essex, King and Queen Central, Lancaster, Washington and Lee High, Northumberland, and Rappahannock High schools. The main purpose of this program is to support the university’s mission of being a nexus for engagement among diverse communities by recruiting, retaining and supporting underrepresented and economically disadvantage students from high schools in these areas.

“This program is often a pipeline for many students of diversity who will choose to attend the University of Mary Washington which helps the university achieve its mission of a more diversified, inclusive campus,” said Justin Wilkes, director of the student transition program at UMW.

The nomination process for this program is straightforward and manageable. First, the guidance counselor, from one of the high schools listed, nominates students who are eligible. Second, nominees are then interviewed by UMW admissions staff, who make the final selection. Lastly, the UMW admissions staff makes the final decision about who becomes a Rappahannock scholar. However, there are requirements for this program that need to be met and maintained by the nominees for guaranteed admission. Scholars must pursue coursework required for the Virginia Advanced Studies diploma and successfully complete at least two advanced placement or dual enrollment courses in their high school experience.

These types of courses help prepare students for the transition from high school to college. Also, scholars must have a cumulative high school GPA of at least 3.5 to receive guaranteed admission to UMW. If these requirements are not met they are not offered guaranteed admission.

I’m a Rappahannock Scholar myself and I can honestly say that this program has changed my life for the better. If it wasn’t for the Rappahannock Scholar program I don’t know where I would be today. This program opened doors for me.

According to Rita Thompson, director of Rappahannock Scholars, “The Rappahannock Scholars Program purpose and success is best viewed through the lens of its graduates… A 2012 graduate said the program had taught her many things, it had given her the means to achieve greatness and it pushed her to succeed, both academically and socially.”

David Mercer, a senior here at UMW, agreed with Thompson.

“I owe a debt of gratitude to the Rappahannock Scholars for all it has done for me,” said Mercer. “I would not be in the position that I am without the help of this program.”