Challenge Scholars is becoming more inclusive!

Challenge Scholars understands the hard work that goes into reaching college, and achieving success once there. We see the parents who work tirelessly to provide opportunity for their kids and keep them on track. We see the determination that students have to ensure their own future is bright. And we recognize and celebrate the long hours and heartfelt commitment of the teachers who guide and prepare our students for success throughout their lives.

We know you, as a parent, have worked overtime, weekends and holidays to build a life for your kids. You’ve bought backpacks, supplies and uniforms. You’ve saved and sacrificed. But most of all, you’ve dreamed.

You’ve dreamed of who your children might be. You can see them graduating. You imagine them starting college. You see the hope and excitement in their eyes. Your dream is their dream.

You’ve given everything to get them here. Now it’s our turn to help them make college a reality.

Challenge Scholars is a unique opportunity that gives students who have worked hard and applied themselves throughout school a leg-up for college.

This is the reason that Challenge Scholars was created: we were inspired by your hard work and dedication.  We wanted to do our part, so we started a scholarship program to ensure that students and their families can afford and succeed in college.

We launched Challenge Scholars three years ago, and we’ve been listening to parents, students and community partners.  Based on what we’ve learned, the program is making changes to become more inclusive and respond to the needs of our community.

To help students achieve their goals, Challenge Scholars is now working closely with Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) to ensure all Union High School students, beginning with the class of 2020, have the opportunity to reach and afford college.  The changes to the Challenge Scholars program will help to continue the progress at Union High School to ensure all students have a college or career opportunity after they graduate.

Three Paths to Success

These are the changes that will begin in Fall 2016:  


Two paths to four years of tuition-free college or career training are available to students who remain enrolled at Harrison Park, Westwood Middle and Union High School, maintain 95% attendance with no 180-day expulsions, and graduate with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.0 or above.

Path A - Up to 4 years of tuition-free college at 46+ schools for students who graduate with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.5 or above - gives students an opportunity to receive four years tuition-free at Michigan public (and select private) colleges or universities.

Path B - Up to 4 years of tuition-free college starting at GRCC for students who graduate with a GPA of 2.0-2.49 -  gives students an opportunity to receive four years tuition-free beginning at Grand Rapids Community College, with the possibility to transfer to a four-year college.


Path C - Up to 2 years of tuition-free college at GRCC for students who graduate with a GPA of 2.0 or above - This new path is for any student who completes all 4 years of high school at Union. This path ensures high achievement by requiring students keep their grades at or above a 2.0 GPA and requires students have no 180-day expulsions.  If they achieve these goals, students will receive up to two years of tuition-free college or training at GRCC.

These changes do not impact families with current 6th, 7th, and 8th graders already enrolled in Challenge Scholars.  These changes apply to families newly entering Challenge Scholars – either starting in 6th Grade at Harrison Park and Westwood, or in 9th grade at Union High School.

The focus on support and community

Additionally, we all know that getting to college, or even having a scholarship for college, is not the complete goal. It's also setting our students up to achieve once they get to college.

In our conversations with teachers, parents, students and employers, we know some of the areas that we need focus on are attendance, student and parental engagement, and student discipline – all fundamental components of making the grade.

The Challenge Scholars program works to ensure that not only are more Union graduates going to college, but also ensures that those students are ready for college using the three Paths for Success.

In addition to these classroom changes, Challenge Scholars will be working with organizations across the community to ensure that students are supported inside schools and while they are out of school as well.

These organizations will be trained on all facets of the program so they can help recruit new families and advise current Challenge Scholars on what they need to do to succeed in the program.

Find your Path

Use the tool below to find out which Path you are eligible for. If you have any questions about these exciting changes to the Challenge Scholars, please contact Cris Kutzli or Ben Oliver at Grand Rapids Community Foundation by phone at 616-454-1751.

Thank you and have a great summer!