Challenge Scholars expands to incoming 9th-graders at Union High School

April 27, 2016 — Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Challenge Scholars program is expanding to include students who graduate from Union High School with up to two years of tuition-free college at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), beginning with the class of 2020.

The expansion complements the existing Challenge Scholars program, which provides four years of tuition-free college for students who attend Westwood Middle and Harrison Park Schools and go onto Union High School. Now, students at Union High School who did not attend Westwood or Harrison Park schools can also aspire to college or career training. “We didn’t want to create an inequitable situation, where some students were college-bound and others were not. With this new structure all Union High School graduates starting in 2020 have the opportunity for post-secondary education,” said Community Foundation President, Diana Sieger.

There is a large cohort of students that are headed to Union High School from middle schools and K-8 schools across the city, including Burton, Riverside and Southwest Community Campus. And while these students would be in classes with Challenge Scholars, they would not have been Challenge Scholars. Beginning with the class of 2020, any Union High graduate who has been at the high school for four years and graduates with a 2.0 GPA or better will be eligible for two years of tuition-free college at Grand Rapids Community College through Challenge Scholars. “"We are truly grateful to Grand Rapids Community Foundation for expanding the Challenge Scholars program to ensure all students at Union benefit from this remarkable opportunity," said Grand Rapids Public Schools superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal, M.Ed.

While the scholarship portion of the program is critical, a key component of the Challenge Scholars program include the services that students and their families receive to help them pursue their educational dreams. These services include Kent School Services Network, college/career coordinators and teacher professional development. Union High School students will also benefit from dedicated GRCC staff to guide them on the college path.

“These young men and women are the future of our great city. It’s a win-win. And it just makes good sense—for Grand Rapids Community College success coaches to work collectively with our community partners, and parents, to provide another layer of support that fosters the growth and success of Union High School students,” GRCC President Dr. Steven C. Ender said.

“We are sure that this expansion of the program will not only be a benefit to the students seeking an education after high school, but to the community as a whole,” Sieger said.