NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) –  More than 2,000 high school students celebrated their commitment to higher education Tuesday at the Access College Foundation College Commitment Day at Chartway Arena.

Access College Foundation aims to eliminate barriers to college for underrepresented and low-income students.

“We’ve helped over 70,000 students go to college or some other type of technical program or degrees,” said Access College Foundation President and CEO Bonnie Sutton. “And many of them come back to live and work in our area.”

During the hour-long event, emceed by 10 On Your Side’s Katie Collett, Access College Foundation and its community partners distributed more than $50,000 in scholarships.

A live DJ played as students from 15 high schools ran to the stage to accept their scholarships while rowdy classmates cheered them on.

The event put a bow on years of hard work, which, for many, included working closely with advisors from Access. Access funds advisors in 30 area high schools, who guide students in grades 7 through 12 in the college admissions process.

“It was really fun,” said Tallwood High School senior Noah Phillips, who plans to attend Randolph College to play soccer. “It kind of was sad to see everyone I grow up with, they’re so successful and graduation is going to be tough saying bye to everyone, but I recommend everyone sign up to it.”

Other students said that without Access, they might not have gone to college.

Aalyeah Johnson, a senior at Landstown High School, is headed to Virginia Tech to study biology. She hopes to become an OBGYN.

“I had help with fee waivers, help with college I had the SAT/ACT course,” Johnson said. “Really just guiding. I’m a first-gen college student, so there’s a lot I don’t know. Having access to help me has been beneficial this whole process. All of it is so stressful.”

Selena Vasquez of Kempsville High School, Jacqueline Santos Maldonado of Northampton High School, and Bobby Sutton Jr. of Lake Taylor High School each won $10,000 scholarships.

Markayla Pearson of Maury High School and Kanye Hayer of King’s Fork High School both won $5,000 scholarships.

Britt Reign of Western Branch High school won $3,500, while Thomas Kralik III of Norview High School won $2,500.

Sasha Mingo of Tallwood High School, Isaiah Boone of Oscar Smith High School, Brysen Knorr of Landstown High School and Nyeisha Savage of Lakeland Highschool won $2,000 scholarships.

Quinn Dougharty of Hickory High School, Dalen Ricks of Lakeland High School and Allison Olivar of Churchland High School won $1,000 awards.

Know more

To learn more about Access College Foundation, visit