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Altria Commits $800,000 in College Scholarships to 20 Richmond Public Schools Graduates

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Joined by parents, educators, elected officials and executives from Altria, 20 Richmond area students crossed the stage today at the historic Hippodrome Theater to accept scholarships of up to $10,000 per year for four years. The students aim to pursue degrees in fields ranging from education and pre-med, to computer science and psychology. The scholarships represent the fulfillment of Altria’s original $2 million seven-year commitment to its College Opportunity Fund program.

The 20 scholars in the Class of 2015 are the fourth cohort of students to receive the scholarships. However, Altria announced at today’s event that it will extend its scholarship program, by up to $800,000, for a fifth cohort.

“Initially, our efforts in Richmond focused on preparing young people for success in college,” said Jennifer Hunter, senior vice president, Corporate Affairs, Altria Client Services. “But preparation alone doesn’t guarantee students have the opportunity to pursue higher education. That’s why we created the Altria College Opportunity Fund scholarship program to help them afford to go to college.”

Dr. Dana T. Bedden, superintendent of Richmond Public Schools, said, “We are grateful for Altria’s commitment to expanding access to scholarship dollars for Richmond Public Schools students who are often faced with significant economic challenges in their post-secondary pursuits. We appreciate Altria’s continued support in helping meet the needs of our students and supporting their drive for continued learning after high school.”

In addition to their scholarships, Altria scholars receive support to help them adjust to college and complete their degrees. This includes financial aid advisory services, assistance with the transition to college and mentoring while they are in school.

“This is the first year we have granted these competitive scholarships to students from every RPS high school,” Hunter said.

Altria has supported educational programs in its headquarters community for more than 10 years. In 2012, the company announced the Altria College Opportunity Fund (ACOF), a competitive scholarship program designed to help Richmond Public Schools graduates afford college degrees and prepare for the 21st century workforce.

The 20 ACOF scholarship recipients for 2015 include:

Erykah Adams graduates with a 4.3 from Huguenot High School. She was her school’s valedictorian, Scholastic Standout and recipient of the Lester W. Morris Merit Scholarship. She wants to study neurosurgery and will attend Virginia Commonwealth University.

Emani Bell is a Richmond Community High School graduate with a 3.7 GPA. Her work won Best in Show in the Carytown Art Walk in 2014, and her poetry was published in the Podium Journal. Emani wants to be an elementary school teacher and will study at Old Dominion University.

Andre Charles is an Armstrong High School graduate with a 4.4 GPA. He has interned at Capital One and Partnership for the Future. His cyber security team came in fifth place in the Future Business Leaders of America state competition. He will study computer science at the College of William & Mary.

Sophia Chase has a 3.6 from Open High School. She received the VCU Leadership Award, was on the swim team and worked as a waitress through high school. She wants to be a teacher and will attend James Madison University in the fall.

Brianda Chavis graduates with a 4.1 GPA from Huguenot High School. She was on the Scholar Roll, received the Citizenship Award, earned the Pacesetter Award from Partnership for the Future and was the Spanish Student of the Year. Brianda wants to study elementary education at Longwood University.

Chelsea Crawford is a Richmond Community High School graduate with a 3.9 GPA. She was junior class president and received a Counselor in Training Award from Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones. She will pursue a sociology degree at James Madison University and wants to continue to mentor young students.

Brianna Eaddy graduates from Thomas Jefferson High School with a 4.5. She was a freshman class senator, a flag corps member of the TJ Marching Band and a member of the Chess Club. She will study political science at the University of Virginia.

Niasia Ellis graduated from Open High School with a 3.0. She received the President’s Volunteer Service Award, the Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award, and the Prudential Spirit of Community Award of Excellence. She also won the Miss Teen Essence national title in 2013. Niasia would like to be a physician to NBA athletes and will attend Virginia Union University.

Annia Fountain is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School with a 4.8 GPA. She is vice president of the Student Council Association and captain of the Viking cheerleaders. She will attend the University of Virginia and wants to be a pediatrician.

Riley Hammond is a Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School graduate with a 3.9 GPA. She was president of the school’s Art Club and a president of her school’s chapter of the National Art Honor Society. She had an internship at 1708 Gallery. Riley will study art history at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Charaje Harrison is a graduate of Huguenot High School with a 3.8 GPA. She played softball and was a band dancer and the manager of the school’s basketball team. She wants to be an anesthesiologist and will pursue her degree at Old Dominion University.

Juwan Hatch has a 3.0 from Franklin Military Academy. He received the Senior Army Instructor’s Leadership Award, Superior Cadet Award, and received the MYA Summer Work Experience Outstanding Participant Recognition Award. He will study Mass Communications at Virginia State University.

Emmanuel Hernandez had a 3.25 from George Wythe High School. He was a member of the Hispanic Police Academy, Police Athletic League, Capital One Future Leaders and the Mayor’s Youth Academy. Emmanuel wants to be a homicide detective and hopes to attend Virginia Commonwealth University.

Taylor Kenyear graduates from Thomas Jefferson High School with a 4.2. She is a member of the National Technical Honor Society and the National Society for High School Scholars. Her team was first place district champions for the SkillsUSA Broadcast News. She wants to study business administration at Virginia Tech.

Joy McMillian graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School with a 4.3. She was class president; elected vice president of Project Next, the art initiative for Art180; and participated in the VCU Leadership Academy. She will study studio art at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Randaisha Nickens graduates from John Marshall High School with a 4.1. She received a Pi Lambda Theta Honor Society Scholarship and was on the Honor Roll and Scholar Roll. Randaisha wants to study psychology at Old Dominion University.

Douglas Smith III graduated from Open High School with a 3.6. He received the Richmond City Council and Mayor of Richmond Certificate of Recognition for FIRST Robotics Team. He also received the Brotherhood/Sisterhood Youth Award, the West Point Leadership Award, and the Monroe Scholars Book Award program. He will study Information Systems at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Machel Tucker is a Huguenot High School graduate with a 4.1 GPA. She is a member of Praise Dance and sings in the Second Baptist Youth Choir. Machel attended the Mayor’s Youth Academy Summer Program. She wants to be a nurse or physician and will attend Virginia Commonwealth University.

Shakera Vaughan is an Open High School graduate with a 4.6 GPA. She received Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones’ Youth Academy Leadership Award, Outstanding Student Award and Academic Excellence Award. She will study government at Georgetown University.

Wilton Wu has a 4.5 GPA from the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School. He was a member of the National Honor Society as well as the Science, French and Chinese national honor societies. His was the best delegation at the UVA Model UN Conference. He will study electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley.

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