It’s not every day you hear that a full college scholarship is available for doing something you need to do anyway.
Imagine getting 100 hours of free help with high-school homework, then getting a scholarship to attend college for free! That’s what Grand Canyon University, a Christian university in Phoenix, is offering to eligible high school students with its Students Inspiring Students scholarship program.
Shari Stagner, director of K-12 outreach for the university, says it all began with GCU’s Learning Lounge tutoring center. Students of all ages can visit the Lounge to get help from GCU student volunteers. “The Learning Lounge is a way of supporting schools in the community,” Stagner explains.
GCU President Brian Mueller initiated the concept. He saw how valuable time spent with college student leaders (“LEADS,” as they are called) could be in encouraging younger kids to think about college — many for the first time. He wanted to figure out a way to make that happen. The idea was born to offer college scholarships to students who have received 100 hours of tutoring support at GCU during their high school years.
“I was the first one to go to college in my family,” says Flor Varelas Martinez, a senior at GCU. “Now I have a career that I can pursue because of this scholarship. I’m trying to be a doctor.”
Varelas went to the Learning Lounge while attending Washington High School for help with calculus. After getting her 100 hours of tutoring, she applied and was given a Students Inspiring Students scholarship. “We didn’t have the financial means [for me] to go to college,” she says. “Maybe financial aid would have helped me, but I would have definitely had to have worked two jobs to pay for college. It was amazing when I heard the news. I called my mom, and she began crying.”
Jesus Miranda Cuevas from Goodyear attended Glenview College Prep, a Glendale charter high school, and had a similar experience. “At first, when my principal told me, I didn’t believe it.” The opportunity was inspiration for Miranda, now a GCU sophomore, who was also awarded a full scholarship. “I was like, wow, I should try more, put in my 200 percent. So I put in even more effort.”
To be eligible for the scholarship, students must come from the Phoenix Union High School District, Glendale High School District, Bourgade Catholic High School, Empower College Prep Charter School or Glenview — which is a neighborhood school near GCU.
Eligible students must complete the 100 hours of tutoring in the GCU Learning Lounge during high school, apply and be accepted to GCU, prove a financial need, have a minimum 3.5 GPA and get a recommendation from a LEAD.
“It takes a certain amount of determination, drive and ambition,” Stagner explains. “Our LEADS watch (the high-school students) with a careful eye. They get to know them and can speak at length to their personalities by the time we get to the selection process.”
Another requirement is giving back. Once at GCU, the SIS students are required to volunteer through outreach at nearby grade schools and high schools or help students who come to the Learning Lounge. Valeras says it’s one of the things she likes best about the program. She tutors seventh- and eighth-graders in Algebra.
“I can actually influence them and teach them how to critically think to get to the answer,” she says.
Since 2016, the program has awarded 327 scholarships with an ultimate goal of helping at least 800 students. Stagner admits GCU would like to award even more scholarships.
“I feel like if this is a program that gains momentum, and it continues to have the success that it’s had, it won’t stop there,” Stagner says. “It’s truly a full circle of giving, and an asset to the community. If you think about this 10 years down the road and the impact that can have, it could be great!”
Requirements for Students Inspiring Students scholarships
- Students must come from the Phoenix Union High School District, Glendale High School District, Bourgade Catholic High School, Glenview College Preparatory High School or Empower College Prep Charter School
- High school students must complete 100 hours of tutoring at a GCU Learning Lounge, then apply and be accepted to GCU
- Students must prove financial need
- Students must have a 3.5 or higher GPA and a LEAD recommendation
- Learn more at giving.gcu.edu
Free tutoring for any high school student
Grand Canyon University operates several Learning Lounges, some embedded in local schools. Two are open to the public starting Aug. 5:
Learning Lounge at Grand Canyon University
3300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix
3-8 p.m. Monday-Friday
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday
Learning Lounge at American Family Fields of Phoenix
3805 N. 53rd Ave., Phoenix
3:30-7 p.m. Monday-Friday
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
First in a series of stories supporting the goals of Achieve60AZ — a statewide initiative striving to ensure that 60 percent of Arizona adults — ages 25 to 64 — hold postsecondary credentials or degrees by 2030. Achieve60AZ is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, community-based alliance of more than 75 member organizations and more than 40 municipalities. Learn more at achieve60az.blog