GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., (April 29, 2014)– A program years in the making is now coming to life as the Grand Rapids Community Foundation signs up its first class of ‘Challenge Scholars.’
The foundation partnered with Grand Rapids Public Schools to launch the program, helping students pay for college after graduating High School.
The two schools included in the program are Westwood Middle School and Harrison Park.
Students make the promise pact in sixth grade. Once they graduate from Grand Rapids Union High School, all challenge scholars will receive a last-dollar scholarship, guaranteeing many of these low income students the chance to earn a college degree or vocational certificate.
Aside from the money, the program offers a support system as well, including academic coaches, college and career coordinators, after school and summer activities and parent engagement.
Chi Benedict’s son is one of the students who signed up. Like so many parents she says from the time her kids were born affording college has been one constant thing on her mind.
She says this gives her son an opportunity and in just sixth grade he is already talking about what college he wants to attend.
Harrison Park Middle School Principal Troy Wilbon says it helps students and families not focus on the financial burden but rather on their education.
“2020 (the first graduating class) seems far away but it will be here before we know it and having that first class start to understand ‘Wow I don’t have to worry about this burden’ is exciting” said Wilbon.
He says he looks forward to seeing how the program will impact the entire community.
There is no set amount that each ‘Challenge Scholar’ will receive; the foundation says it depends on family circumstances, like the amount of financial aid received.
Grand Rapids Community Foundations says they plan to continue this program every year, impacting thousands of students in the future.
Next week they say they will have another big announcement regarding the program.