NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — From the moment they got off the bus and headed into Chartway Arena, it was easy to see hundreds of local students had a lot to smile about.

Deep Creek High School Senior Archie Hill was one of them.

“It’s a great feeling, just can’t wait to see what’s in store,” said Hill.

Hill is going to be a Hokie at Virginia Tech, but like many other students inside the arena, he was able to choose where he wanted to go.

For the first time in three years, ACCESS College Foundation hosted College Commitment Day 2022. About $40,000 in scholarships and $1,500 in gift cards were handed out at the event.

The foundation helps students get into college and connects them with money to go.

They’re helping about 3,000 seniors from the graduating class of 2022. About 1,700 of them were at Tuesday’s event, like Kayla Persom, who got a full academic scholarship to Virginia Commonwealth University.

“If I didn’t have ACCESS, I feel like I kind of would have been lost and, like, led astray, not really sure what to do,” Persom explained.

ACCESS puts advisors in 30 public high schools in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Suffolk, and Northampton County to help students go to college.

Bonnie Sutton with ACCESS says they help all students, but really target students who without the help may otherwise not go to college.

“We have found even the most academically talented students, if there’s not a way to fund a college education, they may not go at all and continue their education,” said Sutton.

The fun doesn’t stop at Tuesday’s event. Sutton says they’re giving away $1 million in their own scholarships in June.

The help of ACCESS goes further than high school. ACCESS has advisors on 13 college campuses, too, so they can continue to have guidance once they’re there.