Virginia College Advising Corps Celebrates Ten Years

By Lucy Hart Peaden Taylor

In 2005, 14 recent University of Virginia (“UVA”) graduates went back to high school. Under the direction of Dr. Nicole Hurd, the UVA College Guide Program, now called the Virginia College Advising Corps (“VCAC”), was launched. These enterprising “near-peer” guides served in 16 high schools throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, impacting the lives of nearly 5,000 students. They also paved the way for what is now the College Advising Corps.

On Saturday, October 17th, 2015, the first ten cohorts of the Virginia College Advising Corps gathered to celebrate VCAC’s 10 Year Anniversary.

VCAC’s impact has been remarkable. Over the past 10 years, VCAC advisers have accomplished the following:

  • 143,093 one-on-one appointments with students;
  • 11,248 meetings with parents;
  • 24,711 classroom visits and workshops and 4,147 campus tours;
  • 7,995 students assisted with SAT preparation;
  • 11,043 FAFSAs completed; and
  • Increased college matriculation rate of partner high schools by an average of 9.9 percentage points.

In Virginia and nationally, these efforts show significant impact. From 14 college guides in 2005 to 532 college advisers today, over 650,000 students have been served by the program.

At the anniversary celebration, in addition to recognizing the work of advisers, two other important groups who make our work possible were recognized: donors and site supervisors.

Charles H. Majors, a long-time supporter in Danville and Pittsylvania County, received the VCAC Diamond Award for his commitment to college access. Without his patronage, expanding the program to hard-hit Southside Virginia would not have been possible. Majors spoke of the significance of promoting higher education to the “mill town without a mill,” and he highlighted the ways in which the area has benefited from advisers’ presence.

The late Susan Allen Huff received the VCAC Champion Award. Accepting this honor on her behalf were her husband, Steve Huff, and her parents, Ursula and Jim Allen. Susan was a site supervisor from 2005 until 2013 in Patrick County, Virginia. An employee of the Patrick County Education Foundation, Susan had been working to promote college access in rural southwestern Virginia before welcoming the first College Guide to the high school. From 2007 until 2009, I had the pleasure of working alongside Susan; we enjoyed an exceptional partnership. She introduced me to the community, was a superb resource in all things college access, and gave me my first real lessons in professionalism. Within weeks of arriving, I considered Susan one of my best friends, and there is no doubt that she is the reason the College Guide Program was such a phenomenal experience for me. I can certainly attest to the importance of having a good site supervisor, and I am so happy that Susan was honored at this year’s reunion for her work that was her passion. According to her mother, Susan “was so proud of the work with students. She loved having them succeed.”

Gathering together in October was a wonderful opportunity to grasp how much the program has progressed in 10 years. Alumni and current advisers were able to interact, share tips and give updates. We were able to reflect upon our work while showing gratitude to each other and to the players who made it possible. With such remarkable results recorded from 2005 to 2015, I look forward to seeing where VCAC and CAC go in the future.

Photos from the event can be found here.

Lucy Hart Peaden Taylor is a former Virginia College Advising Corps adviser. She currently works in Human Resources at Duke University and is a member of the CAC Alumni Council.