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March 1, 2001

Ford Grant for Possibilities

Calvin College has earned a $350,000 grant from the Ford Foundation for its work helping at-risk youth stay excited about education. In addition Calvin can apply to renew the grant twice, giving it the potential to be almost a $1 million gift at the conclusion of three years.

The new grant builds on four years of work at Calvin in its Pathways to Possibilities program.

When Pathways began in January 1997 the goals were broad. At the time Calvin said: "We hope and pray that inner city children and adolescents will value learning, seek academic success and higher education, become aware of career opportunities and strive to live responsible lives. We will work together with homes, schools, churches and the college to nurture students and help them realize their potential."

Those goals are being met. And this new grant will enable Calvin to expand the program even further. Calvin hopes to do three things with the new grant:

1) Work with three colleges, Goshen, Ind., Knoxville, Tenn., and Greenville, Ill., teaching those schools how to do Pathways-like partnerships with churches and urban schools in their communities.

2) Take the Pathways model to Christian Reformed Churches on the Navajo reservation and Zuni pueblo in New Mexico and Arizona, using the world wide web to help Native American families, parents and children make plans for college entry.

3) Work with high-risk urban youth in San Francisco, Denver, Detroit and Boston, helping churches and faith-based organizations (FBOs) in those cities connect to local colleges to form Pathways-like partnerships in those cities.

"These are exciting times for the Pathways program," says Rhae-Ann Booker, director of Pre-College Programs at Calvin. "We have seen good results from our work in Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Holland. (The) Ford (Foundation) is excited about what we're doing and they want to see it expand. We're very grateful for the confidence they have in the program."

Steve Timmermans, executive associate to the President at Calvin, notes that Ford is especially excited about the work Calvin will be doing in San Francisco, Denver, Boston and Detroit.

"Ford also funds Eugene Rivers," says Timmermans, "and they see what we're doing with Possibilities as a logical extension of the sort of work he does with his Boston church effort. In urban centers the churches are often the moral anchor in communities, neighborhoods and young people's lives. Eugene has found that out. The next challenge is to figure out how to help those ministries keep kids in school, get them to college, help them along the way. Through Ford our work and the work of people like Eugene will become more closely connected."

In West Michigan there are some 1,500 young people in the "Possibilities pipeline" right now. Timmermans believes that 75 percent of those young people will graduate from high school and go on to some sort of post-secondary education thanks in part to Possibilities.

"The Possibilities program is working," he says. "And now, thanks to Ford, it has the potential to work for others too." Possibilities in West Michigan consists of four initiatives. There is the Campus Visit program that brings fourth through 12th graders to Calvin's campus (and other campuses) monthly for educational programs. The STEP (Striving Toward Educational Possibilities) Conference takes place each summer and offers 7th-10th graders a weekend of simulated college-level courses, workshops, and more. The Entrada Scholars Program is an intense, three-week summer program during which high school junior and seniors take a Calvin summer school class and live on campus. And Possibilities also works on local church enhancement, underwriting and supporting work that the churches, most of which are in center city neighborhoods, want to do with their young people.

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Contact Phil de Haan.