Students Inspiring Students: 100 Inner-City High School Seniors Receiving Full-Tuition Scholarships as Part of Grand Canyon University's K-12 Initiative
May 2, 2016
Groundbreaking program raises academic achievement at Arizona schools
One hundred students from inner-city high schools in the Phoenix area will receive full-tuition scholarships this week as part of a groundbreaking Students Inspiring Students pay-it-forward initiative to improve K-12 education.
The initiative is a collaboration between Grand Canyon University, the GCU Scholarship Foundation, schools, and business and philanthropic leaders. But at its core, it's about students helping students and the impact it can have at inner-city schools in Arizona.
The 100 students all received academic assistance while in high school at GCU's Learning Lounge, a free after-school tutoring program designed to improve the skills and confidence of underperforming students as well as those taking advanced-level classes. Those 100 scholarship recipients will pay it forward as college students by providing 100 hours per year of mentoring and academic support at a Learning Lounge site to assist the next group of high school students behind them.
The end result is a grass-roots, self-funded initiative that is both sustainable and scalable in which students are inspiring students.
"We've seen the tremendous impact that a successful college student can have on a high school student with just a few extra hours of instruction per week," said Brian Mueller, president of GCU. "They're getting one-on-one help and mentoring from students who have been in their shoes and know what they're going through."
The Students Inspiring Students initiative is an expansion of GCU's three-year-old Learning Lounge project with nearby Alhambra High School, which has had remarkable results. Alhambra, located in a diverse neighborhood filled with refugees from around the world, is a school where more than 40 languages are spoken and more than 90 percent of students fall below the federal poverty level.
When the Learning Lounge opened three years ago, Alhambra was rated a "D" school by the Arizona Department of Education based on its students' showing on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS). Most recently, Alhambra was nine points away from being a "B" school. What's more, the number of high school graduates at Alhambra increased from 417 in 2013-14 to 536 in 2014-15; Alhambra seniors earned $2.7 million in college scholarships in 2014-15, up from $1.2 million in 2013-14; and the number of students taking advanced placement exams jumped from 174 to 302.
"Our students now feel like they have the weight of a university behind them," Alhambra principal Claudio Coria said, "and it's making a huge difference."
Mueller said there is a lot of discussion about what needs to be done to improve academic achievement in K-12 schools, but very few projects that are actually doing something about it. "This is a proven project that works," Mueller added, "and it is about to explode and impact thousands of students."
"We believe this will be truly transformational and could become a model that will be emulated nationally."
The Students Inspiring Students full-tuition scholarships are made possible by a fundraising campaign between the Grand Canyon University Scholarship Foundation - which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit -- and local business and philanthropic leaders. At an initial fundraising event in January, $350,000 was pledged to the Foundation's Students Inspiring Students Scholarship Fund. The university matches all Students Inspiring Students donations to the Foundation, bringing the total amount to be awarded thus far to $700,000.
The goal is to raise enough in donations to award 800 full-tuition scholarships (200 per year) to qualified high school seniors and create an education-minded inner-city community with students who are passionate, motivated and capable of succeeding in college and the workplace.
"Public schools in this neighborhood are assets, they're not liabilities. And the kids in those schools are assets, not problems to be solved," Mueller said. "By investing in them, the trajectory of the entire neighborhood will change.
"The good news is that this initiative requires no government help or intervention and no tax increase. It's a way for business and philanthropic leaders to give back to their community and make a significant impact on education in Arizona."
About Grand Canyon University: Grand Canyon University was founded in 1949 and is Arizona's premier private Christian university. GCU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers more than 200 academic programs for both traditional undergraduate students and working professionals. The University's curriculum emphasizes interaction with classmates, both in-person and online, and individual attention from instructors while fusing academic rigor with Christian values to help students find their purpose and become skilled, caring professionals. For more information, visit gcu.edu.
About Grand Canyon University Scholarship Foundation: The Grand Canyon University Scholarship Foundation was established in 2006 and is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing scholarships to full-time ground traditional students attending Grand Canyon University. For more information, visit gcuscholarshipfoundation.org.
- Bob Romantic