Grand Rapids Community Foundation believes that education after high school is essential to a student’s lifetime success. We feel this is important because if a child fails, our community fails. That is why we are launching a new and innovative program called Challenge Scholars.
Please enjoy this video introduction to Challenge Scholars.
What are the components of the program?
Challenge Scholars may best be described as The Promise Plus. Like other college-promise type programs, students participating in the Challenge Scholars program will receive scholarships for college.
Challenge Scholars is unique in that it also provides students the support they need to be socially and academically prepared for college starting early. Challenge Scholars provides:
- Academic support including math and literacy coaches and teacher development (already underway at Harrison Park School, k-8)
- Health and human services in the school so kids are healthy and miss less school going to appointments (offered via the Kent Schools Services Network or KSSN at Harrison Park School)
- Opportunities to extend learning after school and in the summer months
- Scholarship funding for college upon graduation from Union High School. This will begin with students in the class of 2020 and the classes that follow them
What is the Challenge Scholars service area?
The program is focused on the west side of Grand Rapids in Harrison Park School, Westwood Middle School and Union High School. Each fall beginning in 2013, 6th graders at Harrison Park School and Westwood Middle School will be invited to “sign-up for the Challenge.” We will also ask their parents to commit to supporting their students’ education and college-going plans.
To receive the scholarship, students must continue attending Harrison Park or Westwood Middle School, maintain good academic standing and graduate on-time from Union High School.
Why was this area selected?
Currently, we know that something isn’t working. Recent data tells us that less than 2% percent of students at Union High School are deemed college-ready based on their ACT scores. We believe this lack of achievement can primarily be attributed to a cycle of low academic attainment paired with the stresses of chronic poverty.
From publicly available data, we know that:
- 1.5%, or 2 of 132 Union High School juniors who took the ACT in 2011-12 were deemed college-ready (www.mischooldata.org)
- 97% of students attending Harrison Park School in 2011-12 were economically disadvantaged (www.michigan.gov/cepi)
- Unemployment in the West Grand Neighborhood in 2010 was 20% (www.cridata.org)
- Less than 20% of adults in the West Grand Neighborhood in 2010 had education beyond a high school diploma or GED, and one in four had not completed high school (www.cridata.org).
What is happening right now?
Through Challenge Scholars, students right now at Harrison Park School are benefiting from the addition of math and literacy coaches and a college pathway coordinator. They also have access to after school and summer-time activities to extend learning. The Community Foundation is providing grant dollars to support these activities. Support services are also being customized to meet the needs of students at Westwood Middle and Union High Schools. We expect these services to be extended in 2013.
Good for students, good for community
While Challenge Scholars is good for students and families, it’s also good for our community. We know that students with a college degree increase their earning potential by $1 million over their lifetime.
We recognize that four-year college may not be the right fit for every student. That is why Challenge Scholars can also use scholarship funding to receive high quality credentials available at community colleges such as EMT paramedic training, construction trades (such as electrician or HVAC technician), auto repair or culinary arts.
Program built on strong partnerships
Challenge Scholars represents a significant investment on behalf of the Community Foundation, but we are not doing this alone. We are confident this program will succeed because it is built on a strong partnership between the Community Foundation, Grand Rapids Public Schools, students and their families.
How can you get involved?
- Support the Community Foundation’s Challenge Scholars Fund. Donate online or contact Gina Bovee, development director at 616.454.1751 x113 to learn the benefits of Foundation giving and how gifts can be made.
- Become a Mentor. To learn about mentoring opportunities, contact Ruth Bishop, Community Foundation program officer at 616.454.1751 x103.
- Take a Tour. Call Gina Bovee, development director at 616.454.1751 x113 to be part of one of our monthly tours at Harrison Park School.
- Donate Basic Need Items. Harrison Park School is currently accepting donations of notebooks, calculators, backpacks, jackets and more. Click here for the school's wish list. Items can be delivered to 1440 Davis Avenue NW to the attention of Katie Etheridge, KSSN community school coordinator.
- Share Your Talents. Host a workshop for students and families on a topic related to your professional expertise. To discuss an idea, contact Katie Etheridge, KSSN community school coordinator at 616.819.3156.
- Make Your Student a Challenge Scholar. Grand Rapids Public Schools has 1,000 school of choice seats available to students who live outside of the City of Grand Rapids. Click here to learn more and download a School of Choice application.