Hello again, it’s Chelsea from Grand Rapids, MI. This is my second year serving as the VISTA Volunteer Coordinator at Davenport University. Last year, I spent a lot of time establishing a partnership between Davenport University and the Challenge Scholar Program at Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS). This year the Challenge Scholar’s program is my focal community partner, and I’m so excited about the projects we have been able to complete so far.
To give you a little background, the Challenge Scholar Program aims to increase the number of first generation college-goers by providing a fee college education to students who successfully graduate from Union High School. The Program is funded by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. As an example for this community’s need, 92% of Challenge Scholars come from economically disadvantaged families and in 2012, just 2% of Union High juniors were deemed college-ready based on ACT scores. I have been working with the college/career coordinators to help these students get ready to utilize their scholarship.
At Union High, we recently finished their first College Application Week. We worked with 153 graduating seniors at Union High School to make sure that 100% of the seniors have applied to at least one college or technical certificate program or enlisted in the United States military. Throughout the week, 113 students filled out 361 college applications, and out of the students that participated in the week, 69% will be First Generation college students and 59% are people of color. During college application week, we also organized the reading of college statistics over the school intercom, a college clothing spirit day, and a field trip to the DeVos Performance Hall for students that have applied to at least three colleges.
At Westwood Middle school, which feeds into Union High, I started a lunchtime speaker series for my 8th grade students. I am partnering with AmeriCorps HealthCorps Members to provide speakers from different health careers for the students. The speakers will talk about goal setting, perseverance, and preparing for college. During the inaugural speaker last Friday, 34 Eighth graders, 92% female, gave up their recess to learn more about health and science careers.
These larger projects are to supplement our all-grade college/career talks we do weekly with the Challenge Scholars. This gives us the opportunity to make sure every student has the information they need to succeed. The talks range from building your support system to good study habits to preparing for high school to resume writing. The first cohort of Challenge Scholars will graduate from Union High School in four years, and I’m enjoying being on the ground level of this major college access initiative at these GRPS schools.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!