U.Va. College Guide Creator Nicole Hurd Honored with Governor's Award for National Service

April 16, 2007 -- Nicole F. Hurd, creator of the University of Virginia’s College Guide program received a Governor's Volunteerism and Community Service Award for National Service from Gov. Tim Kaine on Thursday, April 12. She and 11 other award recipients were honored at a luncheon ceremony in Richmond.

The College Guide program, which places recent U.Va. graduates in high school guidance offices around the state to work with students who might not otherwise go to college, is the model for 10 programs around the country recently funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and a state AmeriCorps grant. Hurd is supervising the effort to take the program national.

“It is a great honor to receive this prestigious award, but it is also a reflection of the hard work of all the College Guides, the staff and our various partners and the efforts they have put into making this program as successful as it is,” Hurd said.

Hurd started the College Guide program in 2004 with a $623,000 grant from the Cooke Foundation; Americorps contributed an additional $251,466 to the program in its second year. The first guides entered school districts in September 2005 and in that first year, participating school districts saw increases in college-going graduates.

Holston High School in Damascus, Va., one of the target districts, had traditionally sent about 50 percent of its graduates on to some form of higher education. But last year, that number rose to nearly 85 percent. In Fluvanna County, the college matriculation rate increased from 63 percent to 82 percent. In Patrick County, the rate jumped from 61 percent to 86 percent. In addition to the increase in applications, Patrick County saw a 25 percent increase in the number of students taking the SAT and a 46 percent increase in students filing federal financial aid forms. Halifax County also saw an increase in the number of students pursuing postsecondary education. Halifax County High School saw applications to Virginia Commonwealth University almost double.

“It is very rewarding to lead a corps of young public servants in encouraging more Virginians to pursue higher education,” Hurd said. “This effort has drawn national attention, and now a network of similar programs is being developed around the country.”

Paulin Cheatham, a U.Va. graduate and second-year College Guide at Bassett High School, was one of those who nominated Hurd for the award.

“Countless students are pursuing higher education that otherwise would not have been,” Cheatham said of the College Guide program. “Nicole Hurd is impacting students she will never meet, and she will soon be impacting students on a much larger level.”

Hurd’s other nominators for the award include Edward L. Ayers, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences; E. Ross Baird, a fourth-year student and winner of the Truman, Jefferson and Marshall scholarships; and William Wilson, interim director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, which Hurd directed before running the College Guide program full time.

“Through the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, Dean Hurd always challenged me to go beyond what I thought was possible for myself and gave me the skills and motivation to achieve it,” Baird said. “She sat with me for hours, mock-interviewing me before my Marshall Scholarship interview. She would often stay at the office until 11 p.m., not leaving until students' concerns were taken care of.”

“Nicole was a dynamo [running the Center for Undergraduate Excellence], generating energy, good will, cooperation and excitement wherever she went,” said Ayers. “I quickly saw that our students loved her. … She showed them that they could do more than they ever imagined, and she helped them do it.”

 The Governor's Commission for Community and National Service, Virginia Corps, and the Office on Volunteerism and Community Service recognize significant contributions to the life and welfare of the commonwealth. The awards honor those who have a sustained commitment to meeting community needs, create groups, organize and/or mobilize volunteers and resources to benefit the community, utilize unique and creative approaches, and develop and foster civic engagement and social responsibility.

For more information about the awards, visit www.vaservice.org/go/about/history/.