November 7, 2017
The first of 100 students from high schools in Phoenix and Glendale will receive the surprise of a lifetime when Grand Canyon University awards them with full-tuition scholarships at a special ceremony at 6 pm Nov. 7 at GCU's west Phoenix campus.
The scholarships are part of a groundbreaking program designed to increase educational opportunities for students with limited financial means. Now in its third year, Students Inspiring Students is a collaboration among GCU, the Grand Canyon University Scholarship Foundation, local high schools, and business and philanthropic leaders to improve K-12 education.
Each year, the university awards 100 full-tuition scholarships to students from inner-city high schools who meet academic criteria, demonstrate financial need, and received 100 or more hours of tutoring at GCU's Learning Lounge, a free after-school tutoring program designed to improve the skills and confidence of underperforming students and boost achievement for those taking advanced-level classes.
The university will surprise the first 25 SIS scholarship recipients on Nov. 7. An additional 25 scholarships will be awarded in January, followed by the balance of 50 more in the spring.
"Our first 25 scholarship recipients are academically gifted students, but they're also community-minded and service-oriented," said Joe Veres, the university's assistant vice president of Student Development and Outreach. "We're looking for a particular type of student at GCU, so these criteria are especially important."
The average GPA of the first 25 SIS scholarship recipients, who come from nine different high schools, is 4.1. In addition to high academic achievement, the recipients also must receive strong recommendations from GCU's Learning Lounge LEADs (Learning Advocates... or tutors).
When SIS scholarship winners enter GCU next fall, they will pay it forward as university 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.
"At its core, this program is all about students helping students and the impact it can have at inner-city schools in our state," added Veres.
Students Inspiring Students is a grass-roots, self-funded initiative that is sustainable, scalable, and provides a real solution to academic challenges at schools in low-income areas, according to Brian Mueller, GCU's president.
"Our SIS scholarship award winners from 2015 and 2016, who continue to serve in the Learning Lounge, have made a real difference for the high school students they mentor," Mueller said. "Many of those 200 scholarship recipients are the first in their families to attend college, which changes the trajectory of that family for generations to come."
The Students Inspiring Students initiative is an expansion of GCU's five-year-old Learning Lounge program that started with nearby Alhambra High School, which has achieved remarkable results. Alhambra High, located in a diverse neighborhood of 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, Alhambra was rated a D-rated school by the Arizona Department of Education based on its students' showing on the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS). Just two years later, Alhambra was nine points away from being a B school. Earlier this year, Alhambra was recognized as a Gold School, the highest level of achievement awarded by the Future of Arizona's Beat the Odds Institute, recognizing Alhambra's consistent academic achievement over the past several years.
"There is a lot of discussion about what needs to be done to improve academic achievement in K-12 schools, but very few projects address the root issues," Mueller said. "This program has been transformational in Phoenix, and could become a model to emulate on a national scale."
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. The university matches all Students Inspiring Students donations to the Foundation.
The goal is to raise enough money to expand the program and award 800 full-tuition scholarships (200 per year) to qualified high school seniors while creating an education-minded inner-city community with students who are passionate, motivated and capable of succeeding in college and the workplace. The initiative requires no government help or intervention, and no tax increase. It's an opportunity for business and philanthropic leaders to partner with inner-city schools, give back to their community and make a significant impact on education in Arizona.
"K-12 schools in this neighborhood are assets, 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.
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 220 academic programs, emphases and certificates 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.
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- Bob Romantic
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