By: Alicia Sands Lurry
On Monday, Feb. 1, Atlanta Public Schools celebrated the launch of a $20 million scholarship program to benefit low-income APS students. Spearheaded by Achieve Atlanta, the organization launched the need-based scholarship program to help remove the financial barriers preventing students from completing post-secondary education.
APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen, Ed.D., lauded the partnership.
“I truly believe that this is the kind of investment that will change the lives of APS students and the landscape of Atlanta’s workforce forever. This type of partnership is exactly what our students need and deserve,” Dr. Carstarphen said. “Achieve Atlanta is a bold, aggressive plan to help us radically improve our students’ college enrollment and graduation rates, and we have high hopes for our partnership. This partnership will help will help us advance toward our vision of a city where every student graduates ready for college and career.”
During the program, Tina Fernandez, Executive Director of Achieve Atlanta, announced that the initiative will assist in doubling the number of APS students who receive scholarships. The program will specifically provide scholarships to APS graduates who demonstrate financial need and are accepted to college. Fernandez projects that 900 students will receive the scholarship this year.
“We are excited to work with students to get them ready for the rest of their lives,” Fernandez said. “These students have big dreams and big goals for their lives, and a huge obstacle for many of them is money. Many are forced to either take out mounds of debt, or put their dreams on hold. This program will allow students to make their dreams of attending college a reality.”
Funded by a seed grant of $20 million from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation with additional backing from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, the scholarship will support students pursuing various paths following high school. Students attending a two-year or technical program will receive up to $1,500 per year, which is renewable for up to two years of school. Also, Achieve Atlanta will award up to $5,000 per year (renewable up to four years of school) for students attending a four-year college or university.
According to an Achieve Atlanta press release, APS students will be able to apply for the scholarship beginning in early March. Eligibility requirements include enrollment and graduation from an APS high school and minimum standards related to grade point average, financial need and post-secondary enrollment. The scholarship will also provide academic and social support to students while in college.
Over the next 10 years, Achieve Atlanta aims to double the number of APS graduates who complete post-secondary education.
Alimah Dawkins, a senior at South Atlanta High School, said the Achieve Atlanta scholarship will allow her to pursue her dream of attending college. An aspiring film and political science major, Dawkins has already been accepted to Georgia State and Clayton State universities, as well as Wagner, Simmons and Sarah Lawrence colleges.
“I’m extremely grateful for this scholarship,” she said. “This scholarship addresses a real need that many students have.”
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, an Achieve Atlanta board member and retired president of Spelman College, told the audience that she is excited to be part of an initiative that will help change students’ lives.
“The difference between success and failure often for many students is a small amount like $5,000,” Dr. Tatum said. “This program is very exciting and will really make a difference for so many students. It’s exciting to know this city is investigating in its future, the students of Atlanta.”
Created in 2014, Achieve Atlanta’s vision is that all students educated in Atlanta Public Schools will complete post-secondary education and obtain the full benefits that a higher education provides.