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Community Partner: Beacon of Hope

Published on Monday July 3, 2023
Beacon of Hope

Hope for the future

Beacon of Hope began as a grassroots initiative almost twelve years ago. Birthed out of the City of Lynchburg’s Dialogue on Race & Racism, the non-profit was founded by its current Executive Director, Laura Hamilton, with the goal of developing equitable resources and creating bridges to post-secondary education for all young adults in the city of Lynchburg.
Beacon of Hope’s work is concentrated in three main areas which include K-12 initiatives, their Office of College and Career Success, and Pathways which is designed to assist students who have paused their career or post-secondary education journeys get back on track.

K-12 initiatives 

Their K-12 programming is primarily focused on planting the idea of college in a child’s mind early on in their education. One example of how Beacon of Hope is making this a reality is through exposing eighth grade students to local college campuses allowing them to be “immersed” in the world of college for a week. Laura explained, “many kids will desire college more when they visit one and see it could be a reality for them.”
High school students in Lynchburg benefit from Beacon of Hope’s Future Centers which are located within both of the city’s high schools. Providing similar services to what a private school’s college and career counselor would offer, these centers are accessible to all 1200 students at E.C. Glass and 1000 students at Heritage at no charge to the students. 
Some of the services they provide include assistance with PSAT, ACT and SAT preparation, helping student athletes make sure they are meeting NCAA eligibility requirements and guiding students through the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process. Additionally, these Future Centers help to identify gaps that exist between the financial aid that a student might be eligible to receive towards college or a trade school, and the final cost of attending that would include other expenses such as textbooks or various fees. After identifying where these gaps exist, Beacon will then provide the extra funding needed to meet the final cost. Whether the barriers are financial or tangible, Beacon of Hope’s goal is to knock down any obstacle that stands in the way of the student continuing their education.

Office of College and Career Success 

The second type of support that Beacon of Hope aims to provide to students is through its Office of College and Career Success. Through this office, Beacon of Hope awards scholarships to students and has also partnered with nearby colleges and organizations that award support to establish a centralized application for local aid. The benefit of this streamlined application is that it allows students to receive aid that they may have never been made aware of otherwise.
The Office of College and Career Success also works to advise students who are a part of the “Stay Close, Go Far” Scholarship by keeping them accountable as they progress through a degree program or trade school. This unprecedented community-funded universal scholarship program affords Lynchburg City School graduates free community college at Central Virginia Community College (CVCC) or an $8,000 scholarship to pursue college or technical certification at one of the region’s six accredited colleges, universities or technical certification programs, including Centra College.
Beacon of Hope continues to witness the power of providing students with social capital. Laura, Beacon of Hope’s nine full-time staff members, and their 30-member volunteer board all believe that having someone in your corner, who will keep you accountable and build a relationship with you, is just as important as financial assistance. At present, there are over 350 students who are a part of Beacon’s “Stay Close, Go Far” Program.

Beacon of Hope

Pathways program

One of the newest initiatives that Beacon of Hope has been spearheading is their Pathways program. This program is for students who paused their career journeys around the time that the COVID-19 pandemic began. Many of these students are first generation college students who come from low-income families, and Beacon of Hope’s intention is to reengage these students and provide them with “pathways” towards upward mobility and a stable career. Because in the words of Laura, “wouldn’t it be wonderful if we eliminated the term first generation college student in Lynchburg?”. 

Centra’s partnership with Beacon of Hope

Centra’s partnership with Beacon of Hope has enabled students to intern at Centra and expose them to healthcare career opportunities that they would not have had otherwise. Beacon of Hope’s work can also be directly tied to the Centra Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNAs). Many of the social determinants of health, such as food insecurity and secure housing, can be positively impacted when young people pursue an education. In the words of Laura, “access to education is the silver bullet for intergenerational poverty.”
Beacon of Hope has emerged as a powerful force in the Lynchburg community, dedicated to breaking down barriers and providing equitable resources for young adults seeking post-secondary education. Through each of its initiatives, the non-profit has been instrumental in guiding students on their educational journey from planting the seed of college aspirations early on to providing crucial support and scholarships. This partnership is a strong example of how Centra is working to pursue excellence, inspire hope, and advance health and healing in the communities we serve.