In metro Detroit, charter public schools expand school choice for families. If a college education is high on your list of priorities for your child, it makes sense to seek out schools that prepare your child to succeed in a competitive post-secondary educational environment. Financial support in the form of scholarships decreases barriers even further, says Dr. Barry Hall II, Assistant Director of Charter Through College Programs with Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office (GVSU CSO).
“The pandemic heightened some of the common barriers that students face, with a major one being the financial barrier,” Dr. Hall says.
To help students overcome this hurdle, GVSU created a unique scholarship for students who had graduated from a GVSU-authorized charter public high school. “The Grand Valley (GV) Charter School Alumni Scholarship’s whole purpose is to recognize students who attend our charter schools and continue their education at GVSU and be successful with minimal barriers while they are here,” Dr. Hall says. “It will provide financial assistance to help learners achieve the mission of getting through college successfully.”
It pays to graduate from a GVSU charter high school
The process for receiving a GV Charter School Alumni Scholarship is “as painless as possible,” says Dr. Hall. “Students who graduate from any GVSU-authorized charter high school will automatically be eligible for the scholarship program when they enroll at GVSU.”
That eligibility remains in place even if students don’t immediately join GVSU upon graduating from high school. “If a student graduates from a GVSU-authorized charter high school and wants to take a community college route to transfer into GVSU, they will be eligible to receive a prorated part of GV Charter School Alumni Scholarship once they transfer in,” he adds.
And, students who graduate from GVSU CSO’s three urban high school academies in Detroit — University Preparatory Academy High School, University Prep Science and Math High School or UPrep Art & Design High School — qualify for the GV UPrep Charter Schools Alumni Scholarship on top of the GV Charter School Alumni Scholarship, which adds an additional $1,000 per year of financial support.
With the GV Charter School Alumni Scholarship, students can receive $1,000 each year for a maximum of eight semesters for a possible maximum of $4,000 awarded. The GV UPrep Charter Schools Alumni Scholarship also awards a possible maximum of $4,000 — or a possible maximum of $8,000 in scholarship award when the two are combined.
“The GV Charter School Alumni Scholarship and the GV UPrep Charter Schools Alumni Scholarship were put in place to provide a level of support. If you come to Grand Valley, our goal isn’t just for you to be a student, but to graduate,” says Dr. Hall. “We want to award you and give you what you need to be successful.”
Giving students and families an early feel for college life
Another barrier that students sometimes face is the ability to see themselves engrained in a college setting. When students attend a charter public school authorized by GVSU, however, they have access to a wealth of resources designed to help them be as successful as possible well before their first official day on campus, Dr. Hall says. “We have more than 100 summer programs at GVSU and we make sure to promote them to our charter schools across the state and help support families so students can participate in these programs,” he says.
A favorite is GVSU College Prep Week, offered virtually and in-person, for rising high school juniors and seniors from GVSU-authorized charter high schools to immerse themselves in a week in the life of a Grand Valley State University student.
“We created this because we want to give students a test run for what it’s like to be at college,” Dr. Hall explains. “It provides that confidence that even if your parents didn’t go to college or you’re nervous about going to college yourself, you learn that you actually can do it.”
Simulated class time around a theme, such as health professions, puts students in classrooms and labs with actual faculty so they recognize themselves as future college students. Every part of a typical day at college is mapped out, including living in residence halls, eating with peers in the dining halls, and connecting with on-campus student support services.
The hardest part for students, Dr. Hall says, is leaving at the end of the week. “I’ve heard students say, ‘Hey, I definitely know I can go to college now. I see myself being a college student,’” he says, adding that 96% of the program’s participants go on to enroll at college.
The learning doesn’t stop with the student, either.
“One great thing about GVSU College Prep Week is that we make it parent-friendly,” Dr. Hall says. “You can drop your student off and do a campus tour and even learn about accelerated programs for adult learners or information about pursuing your own degree. This has a positive impact on the community, not just for the students, but families in our communities.”
Content sponsored by Grand Valley State University Charter Schools Office. Learn more at gvsu.edu/cso.