MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WFXR) – On Thursday morning, the Harvest Foundation announced a 13-year grant providing $10.3 million to Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC) in support of the SEED Fund, ensuring free college education is available to every high school graduate in Martinsville and Henry County.
“The SEED Fund makes us the envy of many communities across our country,” said Bill Kirby, chairman of the Harvest Foundation Board of Directors. “It gives us an edge on the competition when our economic developers are recruiting, and it gives our children a concrete goal to strive toward from an early age.”
Since the SEED Fund was established at P&HCC in 2017 as a three-year pilot program, officials say the first two cohorts of SEED students are completing college at a rate that is double the national average for community college students.
According to the Harvest Foundation, fall to spring retention rates increased by six percent while fall to fall retention rates increased by 16 percent. In other words, SEED students are staying in school and earning credentials at higher rates than their counterparts.
“There are many of us here today who are not educators,” said Kate Keller, president of the Harvest Foundation. “But we all know the commitment, effort, and resources it takes to be a college graduate. We also know the earning power and positive outcomes that benefit those with a college education. For many students, the desire to attend college is there, they just need reassurance that it is possible and within their reach. The SEED Fund gives them that reassurance and hope.”
Dr. Greg Hodges, president of P&HCC, says this is the largest investment in the school’s history.
“It is an investment in the power of hope for a better future for our community,” Hodges said. “Starting today, the question of ‘can I afford to go to college’ will never again be asked by a school-age student in Martinsville-Henry County. As of this moment, the financial barrier of attending college has been removed for an entire generation.”
The announcement on Thursday, Sept. 30 ended with the planting of a Dogwood tree as a symbol for this year’s kindergarten class.
“We hope when these kindergartners grow up and become SEED students, they will visit this very spot and reflect on their educational journeys, and dream about their futures,” Keller said.
To qualify for the SEED Fund, the foundation says a high school graduate must have a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.5; be a resident of Martinsville or Henry County and have in-state residency status at the time of the award; file a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) each year; and complete eight hours of community service prior to July 31 for each year of participation.
Students are eligible as soon as they graduate from high school, completing a GED program (high-school age population only) or a homeschool program. Then, once students finish their application to the fall semester at P&HCC, they need to complete an application to the SEED Fund on time.
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