October 23, 2017

VSU’s Holly Lawrence Works To Make College Accessible To All

Holly Lawrence

VALDOSTA — Holly Lawrence, director of Educational Talent Search at Valdosta State University, recently attended the Executive Leadership Institute for College Opportunity Professionals at Princeton University. The four-day event, hosted by the Council for Opportunity in Education, included a series of workshops and lectures designed to help college access professionals better assist students in attending college, earning a degree, and leading productive lives beyond graduation.

As director of Educational Talent Search at VSU, Lawrence works to identify and assist middle school and high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. She said the skills and networking opportunities acquired at the Executive Leadership Institute will aid her in completing her program’s mission.

“The program is all about college access,” said Lawrence of Boston, Georgia. “We let these students know that there’s a world beyond their hometown, despite their economic status. We’re breaking barriers, building character, and producing productive citizens.”

Educational Talent Search is one of eight federally funded programs known as TRIO that help low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to postbaccalaureate programs.

“I was a product of these programs,” Lawrence said. “I was told by my high school counselor that I wasn’t college material. I went to the director of Upward Bound, a TRIO program for high schoolers, and she said, ‘Don’t worry about that. You’re going to go to college.’

“The Upward Bound staff took my hand and walked me through the process and helped me to enroll at Thomas University.”

Lawrence participated in Student Support Services, a TRIO program that helps college students complete their degree. She graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in social work and has since earned a Master of Science in community counseling from Thomas University.

“Had it not been for these TRIO programs, I don’t really know where I would be,” Lawrence said. “I knew that I could do it because they showed me I could do it.”

Since becoming the first member of her family to graduate college, Lawrence has worked in TRIO programs at various colleges and universities in the region for the past 13 years. She assumed her current role at VSU in 2013.

“I see my current position as a pay-it-forward type of thing where I can help students just like me,” she said.

Lawrence was recently elected president of Georgia TRIO and will serve until April 2019. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the Valdosta-Lowndes Metropolitan Section of the National Council of Negro Women.

Please contact Holly Lawrence at (229) 333-5463 or hmlawrence@valdosta.edu to learn more.

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