June 17th, 2011
For those who follow Twitter you know that the hash tag connected to a phrase or word is an identifier for collecting like "tweets" for a particular topic. For those who haven't experienced Twitter, well now you have information you didn't have before! :- ) We used this identifier this past Wednesday on Twitter reporting on details from the press conference we hosted and then throughout the day! The impact of what is behind the #grcollegebound will definitely be game changing! That is how I view an effort that our staff, Cris Kooyer and Ruth Bishop, have been planning hand-in-hand with key staff at the Grand Rapids Public Schools for more than two years. This past Wednesday Mike Nassar, principal at Harrison Park School, Bernard Taylor, superintendent of the Grand Rapids Public Schools, and I outlined an effort that we all plan will make a significant difference in the lives of children and their families. We are calling it the "Partnership Pipeline" which aptly describes the partnership between the district and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation with some aspects that also involve many other funders, the county, and a large number of nonprofit organizations. In future blogs I'll describe these relationships more clearly. BUT essentially, the partnership is meant to ensure that a pre-K through 12th grade school culture is supported that promotes post-secondary learning for all students. Some detail: On Monday June 13th the Foundation board of trustees approved the first $250,000 to launch the partnership building on a college-going culture for students at Grand Rapids Public Schools' Harrison Park School. Ultimately we plan to expand this programming into Westwood Middle School and then increase our funding to include Union High School. This "feeder system" will help foster an academic and social climate at the grade school that will fully support education beyond graduation for every child. The Foundation is investing an estimated $4.5M that will go to the schools within the Union High School feeder system over the next 10 years. Plans include the hiring of a College Pathway Coordinator, a math coach and a literacy coach. In addition, grant funds, to the tune of $1.5M, will provide summer and after school learning opportunities for students spread out over the next 10 years. But that's not all! This partnership also includes a very special college scholarship component. Beginning with the 4th grade class this September the Foundation plans to provide about $3M per year on college scholarships or support for a higher education program to students who move through the program from start to finish graduating from Union High School. With the assistance of our program and various supports these students will receive last dollar scholarships! These students will become this community's Challenge Scholars! In part, Harrison Park School was selected by our staff and the key staff from the school district because it offers on-site health and human services to students and families through the Kent School Services Network (KSSN) which operates in many schools in various districts. Through the Kent Intermediate School District, the Kent County Family and Children's Coordinating Council and many nonprofit organizations and funders, the KSSN is a great support to relieve families of many stressors in their lives giving students the opportunity to come to school ready to learn! We have worked alongside many to create and fund this tremendous resource and have granted more than $2M to the KSSN program since 2006! Further, Harrison Park School is a Meijer Good School a program generously funded by the Meijer Foundation and operated by the Community Foundation. In case you haven't gotten the message yet, education of our youth is a very big deal to the Community Foundation ultimately leading to an educated work force and keeping these young professionals compelling reasons to return to Grand Rapids to live and work! This is the best economic development strategy around! Over the past 10 years the Community Foundation has invested nearly $10M in funding for community-wide education strategies. We aren't new to the business of education. In fact, we have been giving scholarships to area students since the 1940's! I'll write more about this exciting effort in future blogs! The press release announces the Partnership and the Challenge Scholars!