Amherst County Public Schools is seeking to take part in the Virginia College Advising Corps, a public service program through the University of Virginia that addresses gaps in college access for low-income, first generation or under-represented students, according to its website.

Amherst County High School Principal Derrick Brown recently told the county’s school board through the program the high school could get a staff position to help students who aren’t sure how to go about getting into the college or who don’t have the support. He said of the 235 students who graduated from the high school this year, 83 went to four-year colleges or planned to.

The division’s cost for taking part is $10,000, which he described as “a steal of a deal,” and he asked the board to consider it in its upcoming 2020-21 fiscal year budget decisions.

“I think it’s a huge investment for our students,” Brown said. “I think this could change everything … it could be huge for a lot of our kids.”

VCCA, which launched in the fall of 2005, places recent UVa graduates in high schools throughout Virginia to work alongside counselors and other college access organizations, according to the program’s website. Those near-peer college advisers assist high school students and their families with college searches, essay writing, test preparation, college applications, FAFSA completion, scholarship searches, college visits and successfully transitioning to post-secondary education.

Brown said if approved VCAC would hire a person to join the high school’s faculty. Superintendent Rob Arnold said he doesn’t believe the additional ACHS position would strain the division’s budget and the $10,000 can come through grant money.

“I think it sounds like a wonderful opportunity,” board member Abby Thompson said.

In another schools- related matter, Amherst school officials are developing a plan to make Naloxone available in schools to prevent opiate-related overdose deaths. Naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan, is ingested nasally and reverses the effects of an overdose.

Marie Petrone, the division’s supervisor of accountability and student wellness, recently told the Amherst County School Board all school nurses have training to use the drug and school resource officers also carry it. She said it takes three to five minutes for the drug to prevent brain damage during an overdose.

“We do not have an opioid problem among our students I’m aware of,” Petrone said. “It’s more just we want to be there in case of an emergency or to prevent a tragedy.”

Amherst County Schools Superintendent Rob Arnold said the planned policy would come back before the board for a first reading and action in early 2020. Petrone said the division has no reason to believe an overdose will take place in the near future but noted the “what-if” scenarios. She also said it could benefit family members who are frequently in the schools and the division needs to be prepared if an overdose situation arises.

“We know in our region opioid-related deaths are rising,” Petrone said. “If we can save someone’s life, why wouldn’t we?”

Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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