GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (May 6, 2014) — Education officials are preparing for a big announcement with regards to the ‘Challenge Scholars’ program on Tuesday evening.
The Grand Rapids Community 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 Union High School, all challenge scholars will receive a last-dollar scholarship, guaranteeing many low-income students the chance to earn a college degree or vocational certificate.
Tuesday night, officials will introduce the first class of 128 Challenge Scholars, who are set to graduate high school in the year 2020. There is also expected to be an announcement for a major fundraising campaign for the program. District leaders and officials with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation will be joined by four local college presidents, as well as other education leaders.
The program is focused on the west side of Grand Rapids for several reasons, including low rates of students deemed ‘college-ready’ and amount of students who are classified as economically disadvantaged.
“Recent data tells us that less than 2% percent of students at Union High School are deemed college-ready based on their ACT scores,” reads a statement on the foundation’s website. “We believe this lack of achievement can primarily be attributed to a cycle of low academic attainment paired with the stresses of chronic poverty.”
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.
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.