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Union High School Class of 2020 Students Could Be First Challenge Scholars at CU

News Aug. 15, 2019

The fruit of a much-anticipated venture sits on the horizon of 2020 as Cornerstone University gears up to potentially welcome its first Challenge Scholars from Union High School.

The Challenge Scholars program began with the vision of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and Grand Rapids Public Schools to raise the funds that eliminate cost barriers in higher education for students from Grand Rapids’ West Side. Support for the program caught on quickly, and it exceeded its first year’s fundraising goal by over a million dollars in 2015. Several institutions, including Cornerstone, have contributed to the Challenge Scholars’ commitment.

“I am so excited to potentially work with students we’ve been championing and watching journey through their education for the last five years,” said CU Executive Director of Enrollment Lisa Link. “We’re hopeful that some Challenge Scholar students will consider continuing their education at Cornerstone.”

To qualify for financial support from the fund, West Side students must stay on track and graduate from Union High School. Upon graduation, qualifying students can look forward to entering college or technical training tuition-free.

“Cornerstone enjoys a rich and longstanding relationship with the Grand Rapids Public Schools,” said Bob Sack, Cornerstone’s vice president for advancement. “It was an easy decision to support GRPS, and it was important for us to contribute to an initiative that aligned with our goals of reaching into the Grand Rapids community.”

In the case of the Challenge Scholars program, reaching into the community means partnering with a host of local schools, nonprofits and individuals toward a common goal: to provide reliable resources for West Side students starting in middle school and continuing through college so that they can succeed in every area of life.

Cris Kutzli, director of Challenge Scholars, expressed her thoughts on this community collaboration.

“The influence of our higher education community has been significant. Certainly, the scholarship commitments made by the institutions are critical. But even before our students graduate from high school, Cornerstone and others have welcomed entire classes of students to visit, decorated hallways and hosted students at summer camps,” said Kutzli. “These experiences are transformational, especially for students who will be the first in their family to go on to a post-secondary school. We are thrilled and excited for our first cohort of Challenge Scholars to graduate from Union High School this year and grateful for the support and involvement of Cornerstone!”

Should they choose to attend Cornerstone, up to two graduates of the Challenge Scholars program will receive full-tuition scholarships from the university next year. Cornerstone is thrilled to open its doors to the Challenge Scholars and is eager to continue providing the tools and resources for all its students to reach their goals.

“Like every student that enters Cornerstone, Challenge Scholars grads will experience a student-focused learning community where Jesus Christ is central,” Sack said. “That means Challenge Scholar grads will receive outstanding opportunities to develop educationally, socially and spiritually as we equip them to excel vocationally and ultimately influence their world for Christ.”

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