Your Dream. Our Promise.

We see you working hard to make sure your child is successful, now we want to do our part and help them pay for college. Challenge Scholars is a way for you to make your dreams for your kids a reality by putting a college education in reach.



The Plan

Academic Achievement

Coaches are helping teachers zero in on reading and writing skills so that all students, no matter what, accelerate academic progress.

School Attendance

Food insecurity, rising rents and untreated health issues make it hard for students to be in school ready to learn. Working with onsite nurses, behavioral health clinicians, and DHS workers, KSSN Community School Coordinators ensure Challenge Scholars get services they need, when they need them.

Parent Engagement

Parents are students' first and most important teachers and have a great influence over educational aspirations. We're working with the West Side Collaborative to create a culture of parent engagement inside and outside of schools, so parents know what's happening in their student's education and can encourage their child on every step of their journey to college.


92% of Challenge Scholars come from economically disadvantaged families, where paying for post-secondary education is very challenging. All Challenge Scholars will receive a last-dollar scholarship to ensure all students have the financial ability to follow their dreams.

Big Dreams

Through a variety of in-school, after-school and summer enrichment activities, College/Career Coordinators are infusing schools with a college/career culture and exposing students, staff and parents to a world of possibility beyond their immediate neighborhood.

The People

Possibilities are endless when the promise of hope meets the power of partnership. 


Grand Rapids Community Foundation
Aiming to increase the number of first-generation college-goers who successfully complete a college degree or high quality credential, Grand Rapids Community Foundation enrolled the first class of Challenge Scholars in 2014. 

Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS)
Working closely together, the Community Foundation and GRPS staff designed a highly targeted, ambitious program for students attending Harrison Park, Westwood Middle School and Union High School. Each school has both tremendous need and great potential.

Students & Families
Enrollling in Challenge Scholars in 6th grade, Challenge Scholars have big dreams and work hard. Challenge Scholars recognizes that hard work and so do our community partners at the West Side Collaborative.

Challenge Scholars Champions are caring adults from the community who serve as the chief motivators and key spokespeople for Challenge Scholars. They inform other parents about how to enroll their child, giving feedback on Challenge Scholars and help out with events. 

Higher Education Partners
Aquinas College, Cornerstone University, Ferris State University, Davenport University, Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University have each created special scholarship packages for future Challenge Scholars. Other colleges support Challenge Scholars in a variety of ways, from summer enrichment activities to adopting school hallways.  

In-School Supports
Challenge Scholars College/Career Coordinators, instructional coaches, and KSSN coordinators are central to making sure all Challenge Scholars graduate Union High School prepared for post-secondary education.

The Investment

Challenge Scholars invests in our community's human capital, building a skilled workforce to fuel our region's economy. 

Our community needs an educated workforce. Earning a college degree or certificate does more than fulfill dreams for students and families. It benefits the entire community. 

Even with today’s high unemployment, 109,000 jobs in Michigan remain unfilled, primarily due to a lack of skilled labor. By 2018, 62% of Michigan’s jobs will require a minimum two-year degree. However, 25% of adults on the near West Side did not finish high school, and another 53% have no education beyond high school.

But Challenge Scholars isn’t just smart for the economy; it’s smart for our communities. Challenge Scholars invests in the social capital of our neighborhoods. Neighborhoods with more college graduates are physically healthier, have higher rates of civic engagement and brighter possibilities for future kids, ultimately leading to stronger, healthier and more diverse communities.

“Since 1980, data shows that economic success of a city has been increasingly defined by its number of highly educated workers. Cities with many college-educated workers and innovative employers started attracting more of the same, and cities with a less educated work force and less innovative employers – such as traditional manufacturing started losing ground.”

–Enrico Moretti, University of California at Berkeley professor of economics and author of The New Geography of Jobs

Our Progress

As stewards of our community's belief in Challenge Scholars, we promise to be transparent with you. We are tracking data points as we continue to ask ourselves key questions like:

Are our Challenge Scholars currently on track?

For most, the answer is no. And while that's critical to understand, it doesn't tell the whole story. Due to a host of factors, many of our scholars started school behind and have never really caught up.  Challenge Scholars tenaciously tackles these issues.

Are our Challenge Scholars catching up?

For many, the answer is yes. Each year, our Challenge Scholars teachers and support staff strive to grow our scholars "more" than their peers, so our kids can get caught up and meet - and even exceed - their targets. Just three school years in, we're already seeing evidence of this happening. 

View our 2015-2016 Progress Report

View our 2014-2015 Progress Report

View our 2013-2014 Progress Report