Despite COVID-19, Viking Advantage Graduates are Succeeding in Both the Classroom and Life

From middle school math education to finance, and social work, Viking Advantage graduates are succeeding both in the classroom and in their newly chosen careers.

As students at Normandy High School, Rachel Prowell, Jahon Ahmadgol, and Drew Foster each received financial support and mentorship through Beyond Housing’s Viking Advantage Program. They’ve now completed their undergraduate degrees—Rachel in education from Lindenwood University, Jahon in finance and Drew in social work, both from the University of Missouri – St. Louis.

They credit James McGowan, program Coordinator, and Beyond Housing’s Viking Advantage program with helping them learn about the possibilities for higher education, navigating the admissions process, and resources to help pay for their tuition and fees.

Viking Advantage provides an Individual Development Account (IDA) at US Bank through Beyond Housing. The program is designed to assist hard working families living within the boundaries of the Normandy Schools Collaborative with saving for college by providing financial tools and assistance. Each dollar deposited is matched with three dollars. Students can deposit up to $500 that will be matched with $1,500, reaching a grand total of $2,000 to use for post-secondary education.

Participants in the program start their college careers with $2,000 of financial assistance and also receive ACT entrance exam fees and prep support, assistance with college financial aid applications, and ongoing mentorship.

Remy Johnson is a 2020 graduate from Normandy High and also a Viking Advantage alumnus. Remy is a first-generation college student who served as senior class president during his time at Normandy and also played the tuba. He plans to attend Lincoln University on a band scholarship this fall.

Remy was disappointed that his senior year ended under the shadow of COVID-19, however he didn’t allow the pandemic to derail his future plans. Viking Advantage program coordinator James McGowan has been working with Remy to make sure his financial aid applications and other paperwork are complete.

“This has been a great program that has helped me stay on track,” Remy says about his experience in the Viking Advantage program.

Mr. McGowan helps students like Remy, and their families, with the many decisions involved in applying to college. One of the highlights of the Viking Advantage program is the one-on-one mentorship and support between staff and students begins while students are attending Normandy High School and lasts years—well into their adult lives after college and into their careers.

Each year in June, Viking Advantage hosts a celebration for its college and high school graduates to honor their accomplishments. This year’s event was unfortunately cancelled due to COVID-19.

We’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the Viking Advantage students graduating high school, attending college in the fall, and those who are applying their new knowledge into careers. It is through the support of generous donors that Beyond Housing can continue programs like Viking Advantage and to promote higher education and learning for students in the 24:1 footprint.

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