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‘There’s no way I could ever afford this’: Henrico organization helps low-income high school students attend college

“Partnership for the Future” helps students at 17 high schools across four school districts in the Richmond- metro area
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 9:15 PM EDT
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GLEN ALLEN, Va. (WWBT) - For decades, a local organization that has paved the way for low-income high school students to get into and through college is still making dreams come true. Still, it could use additional support when it comes to donations like gift cards, laptops and other necessities for the students heading off to college.

For nearly 30 years, Partnership for the Future (PFF) has been a guiding light and go-to resource for students who dream of going to college but can’t necessarily afford it.

Every spring semester, freshman students across 17 high schools in the Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield and Goochland school districts have a chance to apply for entry into the program. Just over 100 were recently accepted.

PFF President and CEO Dionne Henderson said 80-85 percent of the more than 50 seniors heading off to college will be first in their families. For the first time since its inception nearly 30 years ago, there is at least one Valedictorian from every school district being served.

“Our program is year-round,” said Henderson, who explained the long-term commitment the team has to the students. “We work with our students to make sure they’re maintaining their grades and have the correct course load to apply to the school of their dreams.”

Once the students are accepted into PFF, the opportunities are endless. From paid internships, workshops and college tours, to having a mentor senior year to help with college and scholarship applications, it has all been a game-changer for PFF students like Srista Tripathi, who just wrapped up her freshman year at Princeton University.

From paid internships, workshops and college tours, to having a mentor senior year to help with...
From paid internships, workshops and college tours, to having a mentor senior year to help with college and scholarship applications, it has all been a game-changer for PFF students like Srista Tripathi, who just wrapped up her freshman year at Princeton University.(WWBT)

The aspiring trauma surgeon is studying molecular biology and plans to double minor in South Asian studies and global health. She plans to make her way back home to serve her community. Tripathi is from Glen Allen and a graduate of Henrico High School.

“There’s a huge disparity in healthcare, and so I’ve always wanted to be a part of that change,” Tripathi said.

For Tripathi, continuing her education with little to no debt has always been a dream. After losing her father a few years ago and picking some extra work to help her mom and two sisters, there were times when going to college didn’t seem possible.

“Finances were a large concern for my family for a very long time, especially when my father passed away,” said Tripathi, who never felt pressured to work but wanted to do all she could to help her family. “I worked part-time jobs and gave some of the money to my family when necessary.”

From paid internships, workshops and college tours, to having a mentor senior year to help with...
From paid internships, workshops and college tours, to having a mentor senior year to help with college and scholarship applications, it has all been a game-changer for PFF students like Srista Tripathi, who just wrapped up her freshman year at Princeton University.(Srista Tripathi)

Tripathi’s life would ultimately change when she decided to apply for PFF’s program. She said that she benefited greatly from being paired with a mentor her senior year to get through the application process. She said she applied to nearly two dozen schools and more than 40 scholarships. Now, she is at Princeton, one of her top three choices, on a full-ride scholarship. Her mentor keeps up with her.

“Anytime I felt like I was uncertain, I was able to constantly able to talk to PFF staff and be reaffirmed that the place I’m in is the place for me,” Tripathi said.

Not only do students secure internships for the summer in high school, but PFF matches up to $2,000 of their savings when they graduate. Plans are in the works to launch a pilot program around internships for PFF college students. Up to $1,000 would be matched from their savings per summer.

While corporate donations, private donors and individual donations help to financially support the programs, Henderson said that additional resources like gift cards to help students pay for housing needs and school supplies could go a long way.

“One of the things that I noticed is we have a lot of bookbag drives as students are going through elementary and middle schools, but we don’t have anything for college students,” Henderson explained. “We also need laptops for existing students as some have virtual internships.”

“They really do so much for you; it’s kind of immeasurable,” said Tripathi, who feels exceedingly grateful for PFF’s support.

From paid internships, workshops and college tours, to having a mentor senior year to help with...
From paid internships, workshops and college tours, to having a mentor senior year to help with college and scholarship applications, it has all been a game-changer for PFF students like Srista Tripathi, who just wrapped up her freshman year at Princeton University.(Srista Tripathi)

PFF serves the following schools. The application process will reopen next spring.

If you’d like to make a donation or contact the organization, visit www.partenrshipforthefuture.org

Richmond Public Schools:

  • Armstrong
  • Franklin Military Academy
  • George Wythe
  • Huguenot
  • John Marshall
  • Open Richmond Community
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • CodeRVA Regional High School

Henrico County:

  • Hermitage
  • Henrico
  • Highland Springs
  • J.R. Tucker
  • Varina

Chesterfield County:

  • Meadowbrook
  • L.C. Bird

Goochland County Public Schools:

  • Goochland County High School

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