“We really are changing communities through education,” said Clark State Foundation Director, Toni Overholser.
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The Scholar’s Program, which is primarily funded by community donors, selects students who meet certain eligibility requirements to get three years of free tuition at Clark State. It includes costs for books and other fees — the total price for all of that without the scholarship would be around $20,000.
The program started in 2008 and has already granted scholarships to students in the Springfield City School District, Urbana City Schools and Graham Local Schools.
Eighth-grade students apply to be considered for the scholarship. They have to have a 2.0 GPA, meet income requirements and they can’t have a parent who already has a bachelor’s degree.
After being selected, students are paired with a mentor from Clark State who is there to help them navigate college admissions and classwork as they progress into high school.
To stay in the program and receive the free tuition after graduation, students must maintain the required GPA, meet with their mentor on a monthly basis and have good attendance rates at school and Scholar’s activities.
Overholser said the program brings more benefits to students and their families beyond saving money.
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“They have made it to college at a higher success level than their counterparts,” she said.
Tecumseh Local Schools Superintendent Paula Crew said about 52 percent of the students in the district qualify for free or reduced lunch and dealing with poverty is an ongoing challenge — that’s why she’s thankful students now have this life-changing scholarship available. Eleven students from Tecumseh have been selected for the program.
“I think it’s an absolutely wonderful opportunity for our students,” Crew said. “These are some students… who may not have had the opportunity to attend post-graduate, collegiate level classes and obtain a degree if it weren’t for this opportunity.”
Nine eighth-graders from Clark-Shawnee will also benefit from the Scholar’s Program.
Clark-Shawnee Local Schools Superintendent Brian Kuhn called the expansion a blessing to the district.
“We are committed to supporting our students on their individual paths to success and grateful for partners like Clark State Community College who want to be part of that commitment,” he said.