Pursuing Persistence and Completion: Innovative Program Grant jump starts Washtenaw's Community Scholarship Program

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In 2016, Washtenaw Futures received an Innovative Program Grant from MCAN to help launch the Community Scholarship Program and College Success Coach Initiative, a new program developed in partnership with the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, Washtenaw Community College, and Eastern Michigan University. The Community Scholarship Program provides renewable scholarships for up to five years of college for students who are economically disadvantaged, students of color, and/or first-generation college students, and also provides a College Success Coach for scholars to help them successfully navigate to and through college.

Thanks to a generous, anonymous $1 million donation to the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation that jumpstarted the Community Scholarship Program, scholarships for the program were fully funded. However, through active engagement with Washtenaw Futures, the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) recognized that students needed more than just scholarships to successfully complete college. Local data showed that many students were not persisting or completing college, and as a community focused on equity, this glaring disparity was impossible to ignore.

Thus, the College Success Coach component was developed in partnership with Washtenaw Community College and Eastern Michigan University to provide wraparound supports to the program’s scholars, making the program truly collaborative. The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation now manages the scholarship awards, Washtenaw Community College serves as the “home base” and anchor institution for the College Success Coach, Eastern Michigan University provides Success Coaching training, and Washtenaw Futures provides administrative oversight and partnership management. 

The Innovative Program Grant helped seed funding specifically for the College Success Coach component of the Community Scholarship Program by closing the funding gap needed to cover a part-time, 20 hour/week Success Coach’s salary and programming for scholars in the program’s first year. Without the Innovative Program Grant, the Community Scholarship Program would not have been able to hire its first Success Coach, Shawntae Harris, while the program’s partners worked to develop a sustainable funding model.

As with any new program, unexpected challenges came up that surprise no one who understands working with marginalized youth: food insecurity, transportation challenges, homesickness, housing insecurity, financial emergencies, and more. Coach Shawntae helped students work through a number of challenges that popped up during the school year, but it became increasingly clear to the Community Scholarship Program’s planning team that students needed access to an emergency fund to get them through life’s road bumps, especially since their families oftentimes could not contribute financially during emergencies. A third component of the Community Scholarship Program was added in 2017 called the Emergency Aid and Financial Assistance Fund, available to all scholars to ensure that emergencies did not derail their education.

Since the program’s inception, 33 students have been welcomed into the Community Scholarship Program, including the third cohort of students enrolling in college this fall. Nine of 11 students in Cohort 1 and 12 of 13 students in Cohort 2 successfully enrolled in college within 12 months of graduating high school, and most persisted into their second year of college. For the 2017-18 academic year, the program grew to add a second part-time Success Coach, Courtney Morris, who was also a former MCAN AdviseMI College Adviser. After Courtney and Shawntae completed their Master’s degrees in May 2018, the Community Scholarship Program made the decision to combine the two part-time Success Coach positions into one full-time College Success Coach, officially hiring Personna Hover, who formerly served as a College Adviser with the Michigan College Advising Corps. We look forward to growing the program with Personna as she serves Cohorts 1, 2 and 3, as well as future scholarship cohorts!----

female standing outdoors with blue necklace and grey dressThis blog post was written by Ashley Kryscynski, formerly the coordinator for Washtenaw Futures as of August 1, 2018. Washtenaw Futures is the Local College Access Network (LCAN) for Washtenaw County and was started in 2014. Washtenaw Futures is also part of Washtenaw County’s broader Cradle-to-Career Collaborative in partnership with Success by 6 Great Start Collaborative and the Washtenaw Alliance for Children and Youth.

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