Virginia’s Community Colleges, Opportunity Scholars form Strategic Partnershi

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RICHMOND, VA – The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) and Opportunity Scholars have formed a strategic partnership aimed at helping more students successfully obtain higher education and workforce training to pursue skilled careers and high paying jobs.

four shot of principles involved in signing event

(l to r): Craig Herndon, VCCS Senior Vice Chancellor; David Doré, VCCS Chancellor; Rachel Schaefer, Opportunity Scholars CEO; Fred Thompson, Opportunity Scholars Vice Chair.

“We’re excited that our colleges will be able to consider working with Opportunity Scholars, an organization that shares our commitment to expanding opportunities for low-to-moderate income learners who seek a place at the table in Virginia’s dynamic 21st century economy,” said VCCS Chancellor David Doré.

“Opportunity Scholars currently operates in the Shenandoah Valley and Northern Virginia,” said Rachel Schaefer, Chief Executive Officer at Opportunity Scholars. “Partnering with Virginia’s Community Colleges is an important step toward our eventual goal to serve all of Virginia.”

Schaefer and Dr. Doré signed a Letter of Understanding January 5, outlining plans to coordinate efforts and look for ways to work together to help more students earn meaningful post-secondary credentials in a high demand economic sector, with special attention to healthcare, education, business, information technology, and skilled trades.

Fred Thompson, Vice Chair of Opportunity Scholars, said “The only way we can give low-income students, many of whom are from underrepresented groups, the opportunity to succeed is by working together as partners.” Opportunity Scholars CEO, Rachel Schaefer, is herself a longtime instructor at Laurel Ridge Community College and understands well how important partnership is to student success.

Opportunity Scholars provides students and their families with coaching, job readiness training, and help with high wage employment in businesses. The non-profit organization partners with community colleges to help students secure lower-cost educational opportunities by enrolling in VCCS programs that offer extra financial assistance, such as G3 and Fast Forward. In some cases, Opportunity Scholars will fund upfront educational costs, which students repay when they complete their education.

To date, Opportunity Scholars has engaged with almost 500 students. Currently, more than 120 students are enrolled in the program, with the majority attending a Virginia community college, or planning to do so after high school.

About Virginia’s Community Colleges:

Since 1966, Virginia’s Community Colleges have given everyone the opportunity to learn and develop the right skills, so lives and communities are strengthened. By making higher education and workforce training available in every part of Virginia, we elevate all of Virginia. In 2022, Virginia’s Community Colleges served approximately 230,000 students across 23 schools. For more information, please visit

About Opportunity Scholars:

Opportunity Scholars connects families, schools, and businesses to create a low- cost career pathway to high paying jobs for low/middle income high school students; creating economic mobility in underrepresented groups, while building a pipeline of professional and technical workers to grow local businesses.  By connecting students, families, educators, and businesses, Opportunity Scholars builds a pipeline of professional, career, and technology workers to invigorate local economies. Every student – regardless of life circumstances – will be empowered for success!  Learn more at Opportunity Scholars

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