Arlington County Public Schools

Arlington Public School Students Celebrate Being First in Their Families Going to College

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Virginia public school students who will be the first in their families to attend college participated in an outdoor college signing day event Friday.

While spending most of their last two years of high school distance learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, Arlington County Public School students were being mentored in a college and career readiness program run by nonprofit housing developer AHC Incorporated.

This year’s college signing day celebration was held in a parking lot, but it was no less joyful.

Abel Geleta, who will be a Ron Brown Scholar at Yale University, said he’ll never forget the look on his parents’ faces when he told them his hard work at Washington Liberty High School had paid off with a full scholarship.

“My mom was just, you know, came in and just hugged me, and it was just a moment that I’ll cherish forever in my life moving forward,” Geleta said.

Most of the 31 seniors in the program are the first generation in their family to attend college. 

Wakefield High School’s Esmerelda Matthews said being accepted to Northern Virginia Community College opened a new world of possibilities for her.

“I’ve been looking at digital marketing,” she said. “I was thinking, Oh, if I go into digital marketing maybe I can manage some sort of company’s social media account.”

For AHC Inc. staff and volunteers, it was a day for seeing their work pay off, as well.

“We give them a mentor to work with one-on-one, and it’s really going through every step of the college process, so the essays, financial aid, grants,” one member said.

This was the fifth year of the program. AHC Inc. says it’s always looking for volunteers.

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