Pursuing College 101
Note: A shorter version of this interview appears in Blue Ridge Life Magazine’s July 2019 issue, page 37, and in the magazine’s online version. We thank BRL’s publishers, Yvette and Tommy Stafford, for helping NCCF publicize our success stories.
If you had asked 18-year-old Nelson County native Adrieanna Vest-Turner back in middle school what career she wanted to pursue in college, she might have sighed and said college was not in her future. However, thanks to encouragement from her family, plus mentoring and financial support from a nonprofit-supported college preparatory program, Vest-Turner just completed her freshman year at Mary Baldwin University. She credits her success, in part, to Project Discovery, a scholarship program for Nelson County High School (NCHS) students offered by the Monticello Area Community Action Agency (MACAA). Project Discovery receives grant funding from the non-profit Nelson County Community Fund (NCCF). As she sat down to chat about her college quest with BRL, it was clear, too, that her strong personal drive is a factor in achieving her dreams.
BRL: What drew you to Project Discovery, and how did the program help you?
V-T: My older sister (Aja) was in the program, and she kept on me to get involved and take advantage of all it offered. I started with the GRASP program in 10th grade (which donated $500 per year towards a student’s college education). That program led to Project Discovery in my senior year. My mom, too, encouraged me, saying that if I wanted to go to college I needed to find ways to do it. She’s a single parent and couldn’t take the time off to help me look at schools. Through Project Discovery, I was able to explore college options, and go on tours. I also got help prepping for the SATs and ACTS, and filling out college applications and financial aid forms. Plus, I received a $3,000 scholarship through MACAA.
BRL: How did you land on physical therapy as a major?
V-T: I come from a pretty athletic family, and I played volleyball and ran track at NCHS. I started out wanting to be an athletic trainer. The mentors I met (Jane Francis, NCHS GRASP coordinator, and Katelyn Hebel, NCHS college advisor) talked me into physical therapy because you can do more with it as a career. With a physical therapy degree, I could be an exercise physiologist, or a personal trainer, as well as a therapist.
BRL: How did you decide on Mary Baldwin?
V-T: Katelyn (college advisor) helped me a lot—she urged me to apply everywhere! I applied to 13 schools with the waivers I was able to get through Project Discovery. We compared all the aid packages, and I went where I could get the most financial help so I wasn’t saddled long-term with loans. Mary Baldwin also wanted me for volleyball which helped me find academic scholarships.
BRL: What was your first year like at college?
V-T: I had a hard time adjusting at first; I didn’t feel like I fit in. But then being on the volleyball team has help a lot. Also, I joined the Ida B. Wells Society, an African-American leadership program named for the Black abolitionist and investigative journalist who used her platform to reach out to Black women in her community. All that has helped me find a niche and I feel I belong a there (at Mary Baldwin) now.
BRL: Are you continuing with school this summer?
V-T: Actually, I’m off for the summer—to make money for school! I’m working again at the ACAC’s “Adventure Central” preschool and summer camp, where I started last summer as a counselor.
BRL: You have a lot of energy! What would you say to others like you who are good students and might consider pursuing a college education—but are not sure they can swing it?
V-T: You have to work at it. Some who started Project Discovery with me dropped out. I’d say if you want something bad enough, go for it. Don’t think that it matters where you came from, or how well-off your family is—because it doesn’t. I grew up not thinking that I would go to college, but God made a way—and I followed it.
Contributed by Sue Klett, a member of board of the nonprofit Nelson County Community Fund, Inc. NCCF makes grants to local nonprofits meeting the educational and humanitarian needs of Nelson County residents.
Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
~provides fresh, nutritional food to underserved areas via its mobile pantry.
Blue Ridge Interfaith Ministry
~gives emergency assistance to individuals and families.
Blue Ridge Medical Center’s Rural Health Outreach Program and Medication Assistance Program
~delivers preventive health services and prescription drugs to those in need.
DePaul Community Resources
~expands foster care options in Nelson County for children.
Georgia’s Healing House
~supports Nelson County women in recovery for drug and alcohol addiction and mental health challenges.
Girls on the Run of Central Virginia
~builds positive development in young girls through physical activity programs at county elementary schools.
Monticello Area Community Action Agency’s Community Outreach
~assists with utility payments and other crisis intervention.
Monticello Area Community Action Agency’s Project Discovery
~helps send Nelson County High School students to college through mentoring and scholarships.
Nature Foundation at Wintergreen
~provides environmental and cultural history learning opportunities for students.
Nelson County Community Development Foundation
~makes emergency repairs to the homes of the elderly and disabled.
Nelson Kid Care
~sends weekend supplemental food home with school children.
The Bridge Ministry, Inc.
~supports Nelson County men seeking rehabilitation from alcohol or drug addiction.
Unity in Community
~provides emergency financial assistance to families in need.
Please get in touch with us if you are interested in learning more about the Nelson County Community Fund. We also welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions.
Nelson County Community Fund, Inc.
P.O. Box 253
Nellysford, VA 22958