Promise Scholars has been named the 2018 Bank of America Neighborhood Builders® award recipient for the Inland Empire. The nonprofit is being recognized for its work to provide students with attainable pathways to higher education. As part of the award, Promise Scholars will receive $200,000 in unrestricted grant funding to pilot a new Community College Ambassador program aimed at helping students in the Ontario-Montclair School District and their families navigate applying and acclimating to colleges located throughout Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
According to US Census data, nearly half (46%) of adults in the Inland Empire have no postsecondary education and 25% of the region’s adults have started, but have not completed college. These numbers are further magnified in the Ontario-Montclair School District where only 6% of parents have college degrees and 30% did not complete high school. Without understanding the college ecosystem from a young age, insight into the admission process or a parent to guide them, few students or their families consider college an option. This puts first-generation students at a higher risk of being admitted to college but never showing up or dropping out after their freshman year.
To address and prevent leaks in the educational pipeline in Inland Empire, Promise Scholars developed a program that provides a continuum of exposure to resources that support, educate and inspire students from kindergarten through grade twelve to pursue higher education. With the cost of college being the biggest barrier to many students pursuing a college degree, Promise Scholars’ curriculum focuses heavily on understanding the complex application process and the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Studies show that 90% of students who complete the federal student aid application process, FASFA, go on to college. Promise Scholars has increased the school district’s FASFA completion rate from 32% to 58%, far outpacing the completion rates in neighboring districts.
Promise Scholars’ impact can be seen in campus partnerships across the region, including: Cal State San Bernardino, University of Redlands, Riverside City College, Moreno Valley College, Cal Poly, Mt. San Antonio College, Chaffey College, University of La Verne, and many others. This Neighborhood Builder grant will allow Promise Scholars to further expand its college campus programs acclimating incoming participant freshman through the creation of a new College Ambassador program.
“The Promise Scholars program has the potential to close the Inland Empire’s growing education gap that impact’s the region’s economy. We know an educated workforce attracts higher wage jobs and sustainable careers, and the types of industries located in the Inland Valley become more automated with evolved skill sets needed, programs like Promise Scholars can help ensure that no student is left behind in the region’s exciting economic future,” said Al Arguello, Inland Empire Market President, Bank of America. “This program is a model for private sector, community stakeholders, educators and parents working together creating a pathway to success for our youth and our economy.”
“At Promise Scholars we truly believe that to fully unlock the potential of our community we must unlock the potential of all children in the community,” said Kristine Scott, Board President, Ontario-Montclair Schools Foundation. “To do this we bring everyone together—students, parents, educators, businesses, and local leaders—to introduce kids early on to the opportunities available after high school and make sure they get on the education pathway to achieve their goals.”
“We must actively reach out to all students and their families early and often enough to instill the value of education after high school,” said Elvia M. Rivas, Board President, Ontario-Montclair School District. “Promise Scholars does this and makes sure all students have a plan and more importantly that they have support along each transition from elementary to secondary to college.”
As a Neighborhood Builder awardee, Promise Scholars will also receive a year of leadership training for the Executive Director and an emerging leader at the organization, access to a network of peer organizations across the U.S., and the opportunity to access additional capital to expand their impact.
Over the course of Neighborhood Builders’ 15 years, Bank of America has partnered with 21 nonprofits in the Inland Empire, investing $4.2 million to help address issues fundamental to improving economic mobility for individuals and families, such as workforce development, community development and basic needs.