(L-R) Bernard Hairston, Brian McCormick, Arysse Catlin, and Aryssee's mother, Danielle Oakes

Arysse Catlin has a bright future ahead of him. Set to graduate from William Monroe High School next month, Catlin will study nutrition at James Madison University, where he will receive career mentoring and an internship as part of a scholarship awarded to him by Optima Health.

Made possible by 100 Black Men of America’s High School Scholars program, Catlin is one of three other local students who have been awarded a scholarship for those entering the health care profession.

“I’ve seen that hard work pays off,” said Catlin. “It seems cliché, but I’m seeing it pay off and create a path that I’ll hopefully be walking down the rest of my life.”

Through its High School Scholars program, 100 Black Men of America provides group mentoring, with the goal of eliminating the achievement gap. Like the individual mentoring programs 100 Black Men provides at the elementary and middle school levels, the High School Scholars are based in the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, and extends to other area schools.

Bernard Hairston, president of 100 Black Men of Central Virginia and director of community engagement for Albemarle County Public Schools, said he’s proud of Catlin.

“This is what we want to see,” Hairston said. “We’re pushing a positive image to close the achievement gap for young African-American men. He’s looking at me, and elementary and middle school students are looking at him.”

Other scholarship recipients include Richard Boamah of Albemarle High School, who will attend Virginia Commonwealth University this fall, and James Banks, who graduated from Monticello High School last year. Banks is currently serving on the Optima Health State Advisory Board and will be pursuing an internship with Optima.

“The fun thing for me is to see a freshman going into college connect with a CEO and to see the mentorship continue,” said Brian McCormick, outreach coordinator of Optima Health’s Medicaid Division. “Arysse might be president of the hospital some day.”