Beacon of Hope Future Centers: What Works
Lynchburg Beacon of Hope is a local promise program situated in Central Virginia that has found success through establishing strategic alliances and flexible programming that spans from kindergarten to college. Recognizing the importance of postsecondary education in addressing equity and the overall vitality of the community, a goal and vision was developed to increase the number of Lynchburg City students that attend college.
While some promise programs begin with scholarship dollars, Beacon of Hope began with high school Future Centers. One of the items the education subcommittee found most concerning, according to Lynchburg Beacon of Hope Executive Director Laura Hamilton, was the low rate of college attendance by high school graduates. Only 30% of Lynchburg City high school graduates attend college. Further, the education subcommittee members found that only 39% of Lynchburg City School students had completed a FAFSA in 2012. Seeing this metric as an important starting point for programming, the organization moved forward with the creation of two future centers in each of the high schools with a central focus of increasing the number of students completing FAFSA applications. Central to their programming and success are the following:
- Workshops on FAFSA completion that raised the completion rate from 39% to 79%.
- Workshops on the SAT exam that raised scores by 104 to 112 points.
- 2-day 8th grade symposium on a college campus that increased awareness of college and the need for college planning.
- Kids to College, an elementary school program at 11 schools, that promoted postsecondary planning for kids and parents.
Lynchburg Beacon of Hope offers evidence of the strength of grass roots advocacy through the creation of an organization with an ability to address broad community challenges through innovation and strategic partnership.