With the average 2015 college graduate in Virginia burdened with more than $27,000 in student loans, Lorraine SantaLucia stands out. She paid for her undergraduate education at Virginia Commonwealth University with 21 scholarships worth $40,000. Today, she is finishing her graduate degree in higher education at Old Dominion University, still debt-free.
At VCU, SantaLucia started a small organization called Scholarship Sharing to inform other students and their families about scholarships and grants, instead of relying on high-interest loans. Today, it’s a nonprofit serving students in Richmond and Hampton Roads with an online scholarship database, an annual financial-aid fair and college-based workshops.
Born in Panama on a U.S. Navy base, SantaLucia moved to Virginia Beach as a child, along with her sister and mother, who emphasized the importance of education. Her goal is to make sure that students of all ages and backgrounds have financial opportunities, and SantaLucia is proudest of helping 38 students find $22,000 in scholarships.
“My personal mission is that every student who comes to me walks away feeling like they have a way to get an education and knows what resources are out there for them,” she says.