If Lake Highlands resident Fredda Stout won the lottery, her first wish would be that every student could attend the college of his or her choice.

Stout hasn’t won the lottery, but she’s making progress toward her goal.

During the past five years, more than 200 high school graduates have enrolled in their college of choice after participating in a program Stout founded.

“Nothing makes me happier than to see these kids graduate and turn into productive citizens. I’m here to help them do that,” Stout says.

Stout owns College Admissions Service of Dallas, one of several area businesses devoted to assisting students with the college application process. But what makes Stout’s company unique is her method of billing and her genuine interest in her students.

Stout says she operates on the “Robin Hood Theory,” with fees based on a student’s ability to pay. The 18-month program costs $550 for students who can afford the fee.

Stout works with about 30 juniors each year, teaching them interviewing, test-taking, and essay-writing skills during monthly meetings and sessions with college admissions counselors. Because she doesn’t like to turn students away, and because the number of applicants continues to grow, Stout says former Lake Highlands High PTA president Carol Avery will assist her next year.

“As long as they have good character and they’re trying, I won’t turn anyone away,” Stout says.

“My first aim is to get every child into a college that is suited for them, and my second aim is to find funding for them through scholarships.”

Stout started the company in 1990 after son Jack, a junior at Lake Highlands High School, told her stories about how top graduates weren’t getting into the colleges of their choice.

That year, Stout selected 25 juniors, ranging from the valedictorian to students struggling to meet the minimum college entrance scores, and began sharpening their college application skills. All of the students who participated in Stout’s experiment were admitted to first-choice colleges.

Sporting a bracelet engraved with the initials of her first group of students and the colleges from which they graduated (Stanford, Yale, SMU and Columbia, to name a few), Stout is surrounded in her home by reminders that her efforts have paid off.

A teddy bear dressed in freshman Baylor running back Dexter Ford’s football jersey rests near the family’s kitchen table. Photographs of Marshall Brown, a senior at Vanderbilt, Anthony Hicks, a linebacker at the University of Texas, and Steve Holley, who will play quarterback at the U.S. Naval Academy, sit among class pictures of students Stout is helping this year, including football standouts Marcus Stiggers, Juanapha Gipson and Jeff Barnett.

“If I wanted to, I could probably make a fortune on this, but my aim is just to break even so that I can do for the kids who need help,” Stout says.

“People call them ‘Fredda’s Kids’ – they’re my children. I know they’ll all be coming to visit me when I’m old and in the rest home.”

Ben Pearce, the 1993 salutatorian of Lake Highlands High School and Duke graduate, says if it hadn’t been for Stout’s efforts he probably wouldn’t have been admitted to Duke.

“The first time I applied I didn’t get in. She did everything she could – through her efforts she made a difference and got me in,” Pearce says.

Pearce, who has applied to several medical schools, says Stout goes above and beyond to help students reach their goals.

“Her compassion for the kids is unparalleled in the work she does for them,” Pearce says.

“I don’t think this is a job for her – she knew she had the ability to help kids and she continues to do that.”

Stout says her efforts are supported by husband Joe, manager of Universal Outdoor, and sons Mark, 22, a law student at the University of Texas, and Jack, 25, a Duke graduate and U.S. Air Force officer.

The Stouts have an “open door” policy when it comes to students who need a place to stay or someone to talk to. It’s not uncommon for students to drop by and share dinner with the couple or play cards or pool in the upstairs section of their home.

“We tell them this is their home, as long as they respect our values and rules,” Stout says. “We make them part of our family.”

The business is successful, Stout says, thanks to many neighborhood residents.

“I can call on businesses and individuals and say a student needs help. This is a very caring community,” Stout says.

Stout recalls the time a Lake Highlands guidance counselor called her with a story about a mother and her two teenagers who were living in a motel because they couldn’t afford monthly rent. Within days, Stout and fellow Lake Highlands Exchange Club members had collected enough money to buy clothes and food for the family. A neighborhood family also agreed to allow one of the teens to live with them until the teens and their mother found a home.

Today, the family lives in Garland, and the children are enrolled in schools there, Stout says.

Teachers, coaches, and sometimes even the students themselves let Stout know who needs help, she says. She already has a list of 13 students who need assistance next year, so she is looking for “mentor” families who will open their homes to the teens while giving them guidance and moral support.

“Hopefully, all of these young people will be successful, and one day, they’ll be in a position where they’ll be able to do for others who need help,” Stout says.