Community Foundation Helps put Students on the Path to College

$4.5m expected to be poured into GRPS schools over next ten years for college pathways coordinator, math/literacy coaches

Additional $3m annually expected to be granted for college scholarships

June 15, 2011--Signifying the beginning of a long-term partnership,Grand Rapids Community Foundation trustees approved a $250,000 grant Monday and announced publicly Wednesday that it will create a college-going culture for students at Grand Rapids Public Schools' Harrison Park School. The total expected investment for the school programs by the Community Foundation over the next ten years will amount to $4.5m. In addition, $1.5m is being committed over the next ten years for summer experiences and after school learning opportunities. The Community Foundation also announced that it intends to provide $3m annually for college scholarships beginning with the class of 2020. Students who move through the program start to finish will be known as Challenge Scholars.

The partnership will help foster an academic and social climate at the pre-k through 8th grade school that will fully support education beyond graduation for every child. The grant will provide for three new full-time staff at Harrison Park: a College Pathway Coordinator, a math coach and a literacy coach.  Grant funds will also support extended learning time and professional development.

This partnership also includes a college scholarship component. Beginning with next year's 4th graders (the class of 2020), the Community Foundation will provide $3m annually in scholarships to students who graduate from Union High School. The program will expand to include Westwood Middle and Union High Schools in coming years, providing academic and social supports to Challenge Scholars as they prepare for college.

"This is a game-changing program," said Diana Sieger, community foundation president. "We're focusing on long-term systemic change for students and we know the seeds for academic success are planted early and require ongoing nurturing," said Sieger. "This is one step in school reform that people can appreciate and understand," said Sieger.

Research, preparation and planning for this project have taken almost three years.

"This project fulfills a key element in the Community Foundation's education strategy," notes Marcia Rapp, community foundation vice president of programs. "By targeting a specific population, the collective effect of our grant-making will be more evident."

The program will be launched at Harrison Park because it offers on-site health and human services to students and families through the Kent School Services Network. It is a pre-K through 8th grade school, and is a Meijer Good School award winner. Students have been making steady gains on MEAP scores. It also has a highly diverse student population that reflects the district as a whole.

"We want to thank the Grand Rapids Community Foundation for their past, on-going, and new long-term commitment to enhancing academic opportunities for our students. This new 'Partnership Pipeline' for students attending Harrison Park K8, Westwood Middle, and Union High is about college and career readiness and our ability to develop a school culture that recognizes, rewards and builds on the importance of post-secondary learning," said Dr. Bernard Taylor, Jr., Superintendent of Schools.

The program is funded with unrestricted and field of interest funds at the Community Foundation.


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