CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Two local high school students received the surprise of a lifetime by winning $25,000 scholarships to help them attend school.
On Wednesday, the Norfolk-based Access College Foundation and Shaggy from Z104 surprised Arriona Holiz, of Portsmouth, and Jocelyn McCall, of Chesapeake, at their homes.
The two graduates were selected by a team from Access College to receive the scholarships for their academic performance and inspiring essays for the “Beating the Odds” contest.
“It just spoke to us,” said Access College president and CEO Bonnie Sutton. “Both of the essays spoke to us with what they had to overcome in different ways. It’s in different things because what’s an obstacle for me might not be an obstacle for you and vice versa.”
The foundation has been around for 33 years and has helped around 75,000 students pursue higher educational goals, according to Sutton.
This year, they awarded 110 scholarships. Holiz and McCall thought they were only going to be awarded $5,000.
“It doesn’t seem like a real amount of money. I was like 25 [thousand dollars]? Are you sure? Five is enough but 25 is a lot,” said Holiz, who is a graduate of Churchland High School in Portsmouth. She was awarded the Peggy and Conrad Hall Scholarship.
Holiz will be attending Emory and Henry College in Emory, Virginia, to major in pre-veterinarian studies. She hopes to become a veterinarian ophthalmologist.
McCall was overwhelmed by the news. She will be attending Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and is looking into social work and business programs.
“This will help a lot,” she said. “I think this will help pay off like a year of school.”
McCall was awarded the Joan P. and Macon Brock Jr. Scholarship.
Both scholarships were announced Wednesday with a caravan of employees from the foundation.
Sutton says it means so much to them to be able to help in this way.
“It’s as exciting for us as it is for them to receive it. We know how hard they’ve worked and we wanted something special,” she said.
Both students worked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual learning to complete high school.
Holiz says all the hard work and focus that led to this moment was worth it.
“It all works out. It might be bad at one point but it all works out,” she said.
Holiz and McCall, along with the other scholarship winners, will be celebrated at a banquet later this month.