June 25, 2019
At a luncheon sponsored by Dykema on June 12, AAACF gathered scholars, donors, supporters, volunteers, and partners who make the Community Scholarship Program a true “community” initiative. A unique model among community foundations, the program concept borne here is attracting attention for potential replication across Michigan and beyond.
The Community Scholarship Program (CSP) is not about awarding scholarships but about promoting degree attainment. A dedicated “college success coach,” supported by the RNR Foundation and the James A. & Faith Knight Foundation, assists the scholars in successful navigating through their educational journeys.
CSP launched in early 2016 with an anonymous $1M gift, which included a $250,000 challenge match for a Level the Playing Field Fund within the Community Scholarship Program to “level the playing field” for students with financial need graduating from Washtenaw County public schools. The community responded in such a magnificent way that 50 scholars have now been awarded $1 million in support!
In addition to being paired with a college success coach, all CSP scholars are awarded up to $20,000 to be distributed according to their needs for up to five consecutive academic years, as well as access to an Emergency Aid & Financial Assistance Program.
Two scholars from the first cohort just graduated this spring from Washtenaw Community College (WCC) and are now going on to a university. Diana Bernal-Canseco Diana, who wants to pursue a bachelor’s in engineering, is known for her community service. She spoke to the luncheon audience about her gratitude for the scholarship and how it has helped in pursuing her goals.
Holly Heaviland, Executive Director of Community & School Partnerships for the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD), talked about the data-driven origins of the program and the ongoing collaborations and partnerships among AAACF, WISD, WCC and Eastern Michigan University that make the Community Scholarship Program work.
The program’s design immediately appealed to the third luncheon speaker, Marie Shaffer, a long-time guidance counselor for the Willow Run School District who knew firsthand how important multiple years of funding and dedicated mentorship are to helping students succeed. She created the Earl & Marie Shaffer Scholarship Fund to honor her late husband, Earl, who was not only the first in his family to graduate from high school but also worked his way through college in three years as a barber and ultimately earned a doctorate from the University of Michigan. He was director of career and technical programs for the Ann Arbor public school system for many years.
Diana, Holly and Marie exemplify that CSP is a community-based program in every sense of the word. Local donors support scholarships for local students who are selected by a group of community volunteers for a program administered by community organizational partners. Good luck to the fourth CSP cohort as they start college this fall!