You've brought them this far. Let us pay for college.

How to Succeed with Challenge Scholars


The Details

To become a Challenge Scholar, students and parents sign the enrollment form and accept the challenge to be a scholar. Being a Challenge Scholar requires commitment and hard work. But you don't have to do it alone. Your community is all in.

What colleges are included for the scholarship?

  • For Path A: All public colleges and universities in Michigan are included. This includes Grand Rapids Community College! Three local private colleges (Aquinas College, Cornerstone University, and Davenport University) also have scholarship arrangements with Challenge Scholars.
  • For Path B: While your student will begin at Grand Rapids Community College, if they maintain good grades, they are eligible to transfer to any public college or university in Michigan.
  • For Path C: The scholarship will cover the tuition and fees at Grand Rapids Community College only.

What does the Challenge Scholars scholarship cover?

  • Challenge Scholars offers scholarships for either two or four years of tuition-free college after the Pell Grant. This means after the student is awarded their Pell Grant—at whatever amount they are awarded, the Challenge Scholars scholarship will cover the rest of the tuition and fees.
  • The Pell Grant is a scholarship provided by the federal government. In order to receive a Pell Grant, the student’s family must submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) during 12th grade.
  • This scholarship does not include room and board for the student.
  • Scholarship terms are slightly different for Challenge Scholars who enrolled in 6th grade at Harrison Park or Westwood and will graduate from Union in 2020, 2021, or 2022.

What happens if my child falls behind?

  • The goal of Challenge Scholars is to get students to college, and set them up to succeed while in college. We recognize that students do sometimes make mistakes and grades may slip. Challenge Scholars works with Grand Rapids Public Schools and other partners to ensure your student has many opportunities to succeed.
  • However, it is up to students and families to make sure their student is getting the help they need. Students or parents must ensure their grades remain above a C average (2.0 GPA), and if they are struggling they must ask for help. If they do not ask for help or raise their grades they will not be eligible for the scholarship. A 180-day expulsion will also result in being ineligible for the schol­arship. Paths A and B also require 95% attendance.
  • If your child becomes ineligible and you feel it is unfair, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation will have an appeals process for you to follow. An Appeals Committee made up of Grand Rapids Community Foundation staff, schools, and others from the commu­nity will review these special cases.

Are career training programs at community colleges allowed using the scholarship?

  • Yes! Challenge Scholars works closely with both 4 year colleges and Grand Rapids Community College. We recognize that all students have different dreams, our goal is to ensure their success regardless of whether that dream is at a 4 year college or a career training program at a community college. Path A is the only pathway that can begin at a 4 year college, but it can also be directed toward a career training program at a Michigan community college.

Are there income restrictions?

  • Yes, this scholarship is restricted to families who make less than double the average median income, roughly $90,000 for a house­hold. If you make more than that amount, your student will be eligible for a smaller scholarship: up to $1500 per year for a community college, and up to $3000 per year for a 4 year college (Paths A & B only).

Why is Challenge Scholars restricted to these schools?

  • Challenge Scholars recognizes the hard work of the families across the entire community. However, the program is focused on Harrison Park, Westwood Middle School and Union High School. The focus is ensuring students who go to these schools have the opportunity for success that they might not have had before. Although we don’t have the resources to provide scholarships city-wide, what we learn through Challenge Scholars is being shared with other schools. 

What if my family moves?

  • Challenge Scholars students can move homes, but they must remain enrolled at Westwood Middle School, Harrison Park, and Union High School. If your family does move, and your student changes to a different school, they will no longer be eligible for the scholarship. School of Choice is often a great option for families who must move but want to remain with the program.

Will Challenge Scholars help undocumented students?

  • We do not ask about the immigration status of Challenge Scholars. However, every college has its own rules about undocumented students. When an undocumented Challenge Scholar student is accepted to a college, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation will work with the college and family to put together a financial aid package that covers most of the tuition and fees. 

Are all students at Union Challenge Scholars?

  • Students and families will need to enroll as Challenge Scholars in 6th Grade at Harrison Park or Westwood Middle School in order to start on Path A or Path B. All Union High School 9th graders (beginning in fall 2016) will automatically be eligible for Path C and are considered Challenge Scholars. All students will need to stay in the program all the way through 12th grade and meet all program requirements to receive the Challenge Scholars scholarship. Students who enter Union in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade are not eligible for the Challenge Scholars scholarship.

Preparing for College

After signing up for Challenge Scholars, the journey to college or trade school begins. Even though college can seem far, far away, every day counts so you are prepared when you graduate Union High School.

Attend School

It’s important that you’re in school every day, ready to learn. We know, though, that lots of things can get in the way. If you are struggling in school due to a Health & Human Services need, contact the KSSN Coordinator in your school.

Achieve Academically

We want to make sure that you graduate Union High School ready for college. If you find yourself falling behind, talk to Ben Oliver. He’ll help you find the best ways to get the help you need.

Explore Your Potential

We promise to expose you to a world of possibilities by taking you on field trips, creating summer learning opportunities and bringing in lots of colleges to talk with you. Be curious. Ask questions. Talk with your parents, teachers and friends about careers. The world is wide open to you.

Supports Along the Way

We want to connect you with the resources you need to do your best. If you find yourself needing extra support, contact these people:

  • Westwood Middle School parents and students, contact Principal Dennis Branson at (616) 819-3322.
  • Harrison Park parents and students, contact Principal Troy Wilbon at (616) 819-2565.
  • Union High School parents and students, contact (616) 819-3160. 
  • If you have questions about scholarship details, contact Family Advisor Ben Oliver at (616) 284-4922. 
  • If you'd like information about how to enroll at Union High School or any Challenge Scholars school, contact the GRPS Admissions/Enrollment hotline at (616) 819-2150. 
  • For general GRPS questions, call (616) 819-2149.