Thousands of low-income, underserved students, backed by a caring community and generous scholarships, flourished in college and beyond.

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A DYNAMIC combination of hardworking, motivated students, the insights of a creative nonprofit and the financial support of a generous benefactor has transformed the lives of thousands of Washington students.

The power of the word “opportunity” radiates from the findings of a survey of the roughly 5,000 Washington Achievers guided through college with the help of the College Success Foundation and scholarships from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The idea behind the Achievers program was to support low-income, underserved students who might not be thinking about or pointed toward college.

The College Success Foundation’s template for college planning started early — as early as middle school. Students who expressed an interest would receive sustained support through high school.

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Students were pointed toward the classes they needed for college admission. Students and families were guided through the swamp of college aid applications.

The Gates Foundation covered the gaps not paid for by other financial grants and family sources.

In college, students found emotional support from older students who served as mentors to help them adjust to campus life and cope with family anxieties from the new experience of a family member in college — a son or daughter not at home contributing to family maintenance and income.

The Achievers program also sent foster-care children to college and nurtured their adjustments and eventual success.

The legacy of the Achievers program is extraordinary, as the Gates funding sunsets and other sources emerge.

Here was a collaboration of students with the will, intent and academic capacity to attend college but not the means, a gifted nonprofit with a strategy to help them succeed and a generous philanthropic foundation to help cover expenses.

A survey of these Achievers found virtual full employment after college. These program alums were living and volunteering in Washington communities. All had stayed close to home. And they are committed to seeing their own children going to college.

This is a celebration of the tenacity of spirit of the students, the creative insights of the College Success Foundation and the well-focused generosity of the Gates Foundation.

Opportunities create options, and they empower and enrich lives.