Skip to Main Content


You are in the main content

Valley Scholars Program offers opportunities to local students

A select group of seventh grade students in the area are already thinking about college.

President Jon Alger recently implemented JMU’s new Valley Scholars Program, which provides local middle school students with the opportunity to receive full-tuition scholarships if they’re accepted into JMU after high school.

According to Bill Wyatt, the associate director of communications, the Valley Scholars Program will accept 35 local seventh grade students who are first-generation college students and demonstrate the need for financial assistance. They will also have been recommended by their teachers for being academically gifted and dedicated to their schoolwork.

The Valley Scholars Program was created this past April when 35 students were selected from seven local school districts — Augusta, Harrisonburg, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Staunton and Waynesboro.

“The program is designed to provide a pathway to college for local students who are motivated and possess academic potential but may face barriers to dreaming of going to college,” Shaun Mooney, the vice president for access and enrollment management, said in an email.

So far, the costs of the program have yet to be determined, according to Mooney.

“The costs of the program are multi-faceted and ultimately will depend on the community support the program receives,” Mooney said. “We hope to create a sustainable program drawing upon university resources [and] significant community support.“

JMU students are becoming more invested with a program that will not only benefit its participants, but the university as well.

Sophomore nursing and health sciences double major Sharayah Wilson believes this program encourages students to get involved.

“I think it’s a great program,” Wilson said. “I think it’s a great way to reach out to first-generation college students. As a first-generation college student, I definitely worried about the cost of school, because that was one of the many reasons my parents did not go to college themselves. So it would definitely motivate me to work hard in the hopes of possibly getting free tuition.”

Acceptance into the program is highly competitive. This year is the first group of 35 students, according to Mooney. The program has committed to having two additional cohorts of 35 students this year and next — totaling 105 students in the first three years.

Mooney said that this program will also encourage the selected students to focus more on their academics, because after being accepted they must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.25 while in the program from eighth to 12th grade. It will also keep the students involved in the JMU community by requiring them to attend all Valley Scholars sponsored events on campus and participate in a variety of mentorship experiences.

“While the program contains tremendous benefits for the students, our participants must put forth the effort and work hard to maintain their standing in the program and ultimately earn their admission to the university,” Mooney said. “The Valley Scholars program is designed to provide the program structure to ensure that students can attain their goals.

Sophomore kinesiology major Megan Breeden who’s involved with the program believes it’s a great way to prepare students for their future.

“I think it is going to benefit them by providing them with information that their parents may not have been exposed to, and provide them with encouragement that they may or may not receive from their loved ones or peers,” Breeden said in an email. “Not only are these students going to be aided financially, but they will have access to knowledge and guidance that will help them achieve goals they never.”

According to Mooney, students are also required to take a rigorous course schedule throughout their high school years that will prepare them to attend college.

While this program gets students from the local areas involved on campus, JMU students like Breeden are also getting involved by becoming active members in the program.

“From a more personal standpoint of having been blessed to meet these kids and their families, I know that the families of these students are incredibly grateful for the program for helping to provide their child with a future that they may not have been able to provide on their own,” Breeden said.

So far the program has been a success, and Mooney and many other JMU administrators are hopeful in its continuation.

“We are looking to the JMU community and the local community for support to sustain and expand the program,” Mooney said. “We hope that the wider community will rally around the students and help deserving children aspire to reach their full potential.”

Contact Megan Grimes at

Link to Originial Article


  • No Related Stories


  • No Related Videos