PVCC, UVA Announce First Cohort of Piedmont Scholars

Piedmont Scholars stand in a line, from left, Liam Kidd, Justin Cary, James McIvor, Camille Garcia, Quana Dennis, Sara Abdullah and Christian Garcia Rivera

Piedmont Scholars, from left, Liam Kidd, Justin Cary, James McIvor, Camille Garcia, Quana Dennis, Sara Abdullah and Christian Garcia Rivera. Not pictured: Sam Alsamaraee, Dino Bukic and Casey Halfacre. (Photo courtesy PVCC)

Piedmont Virginia Community College and the University of Virginia on Thursday announced the inaugural cohort of students selected for a scholarship program that creates new opportunities for students who wish to transfer from the Charlottesville-based community college to UVA.

Ten recent PVCC graduates who have transferred to UVA for the 2021 fall semester were named as the first Piedmont Scholars: Sara Abdullah, Sam Alsamaraee, Dino Bukic, Justin Cary, Quana Dennis Jr., Camille Garcia, Casey Halfacre, Liam Kidd, James McIvor and Christian Garcia Rivera.

Through the Piedmont Scholars Program, each has been awarded a scholarship covering full in-state tuition and fees.

The Piedmont Scholars Program, announced in March, is an endowed fund that provides scholarships to qualifying PVCC graduates who are transferring to UVA, and who have also been selected as recipients of UVA’s University Achievement Award. All in-state students who apply for transfer admission to UVA as full-time, degree-seeking students, and who will earn an associate degree from PVCC, are eligible to be considered.

The program was established by an anonymous $5 million gift, matched by $4.5 million in UVA funds, creating a nearly $10 million endowment to support annual scholarships.

“I salute these 10 outstanding students who comprise the inaugural class of Piedmont Scholars,” PVCC President Frank Friedman said. “For hundreds of students each year, the pathway to a UVA degree begins at PVCC. The UVA-PVCC partnership has been a national model for many years, and the Piedmont Scholars initiative takes our partnership to an even higher level.”

UVA. Mask in indoor spaces.

In a letter to scholarship recipients, UVA President Jim Ryan congratulated and welcomed them, and celebrated the program’s role in allowing the two institutions to serve more students.

“One of our goals at UVA is to prepare all of our students to become citizen-leaders who will leave the University and serve their local communities, our democracy, and the world,” he wrote. “We hope that your time at UVA will help you grow as citizen-leaders, achieve your educational goals, and gain the skills and experiences you need to succeed after graduation.”

Among the initial Piedmont Scholars, Abdullah transferred from PVCC into UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce. Alsamaraee and Kidd are enrolled in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Dennis transferred to the School of Education and Human Development, while Bukic and Garcia are now enrolled in the School of Nursing. Rivera is in the College of Arts & Sciences along with Halfacre, McIvor and Cary.

“PVCC helped me get in the mindset of problem-solving,” said Kidd. “My experiences there helped me challenge myself and prepared me for the biomedical engineering major that I’m pursing. I am still in awe that I was selected for this incredible scholarship.”

Garcia, who is now in the UVA School of Nursing, emphasized the importance of the award.

“This scholarship will help me immensely with covering the cost of my education and transitioning into my role as an RN,” she said. “To have the stress of financial burdens lessened is a true blessing.”

Garcia has a four-year degree and is a graduate of the PVCC Associate Degree in Nursing program, which she found “more mentally and emotionally challenging than anticipated. I feel as though after completing the ADN program at PVCC, I can do anything. My time at PVCC taught me how to be flexible and that I’m capable of accomplishing anything I put my mind to.”

PVCC and UVA have had a unique partnership since the 1980s. Each year, approximately 150 students transfer from PVCC to UVA, many of whom have attended local high schools in Charlottesville, Albemarle and the surrounding counties. The Piedmont Scholars Program enables a broader, more diverse pool of PVCC students to attain their educational goals of a degree from UVA.

“We’re grateful to these first Piedmont Scholars for choosing UVA,” said Stephen Farmer, UVA’s vice provost for enrollment. “They’re an incredible group – as distinguished in their achievements at PVCC as they are different in the paths they’ve traveled. We’re confident they’ll make everyone around them better, and we hope they’ll inspire other PVCC students to follow them.”

McIvor said his journey from PVCC to UVA has been long and full of challenges as he balanced work, school and finances. Receiving the Piedmont Scholars award letter, he recalled, was almost surreal.

“I felt the large burden of college expenses lifted off my shoulders and an overwhelming sense of gratitude swept over me; my worries and anxiety about paying for school and working while going to school full-time were washed away,” he said. “I am now able to focus primarily on my studies. There is no way I could fully express my gratitude for this amazing gift and opportunity.”

Dennis, now studying at UVA to become a teacher, said the scholarship has opened new doors and relieved financial burdens.

“This award has made it possible for me to attend one of the most prestigious universities in the United States,” Dennis said. “I would like to thank my mother, Michelle Washington, who has supported me throughout my journey from grade school to college. She has always encouraged me to work hard and assured me the rest will follow.”

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