“I am rewriting the narrative for the younger people in my family, letting everyone see that it is possible to achieve your dreams,” says Avery Cica, a 2022 graduate of Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS) pursuing a degree in elementary education at Grand Valley State University (GVSU).
Avery grew up in a family that struggled financially and experienced homelessness, challenges that dampened her courage to pursue her dreams of a teaching career because she was entirely focused on earning a living after high school.
“I am so beyond grateful for the GVSU Pipeline Scholarship. It made me believe in my own abilities and my future,” Avery says.
Many young people quietly face daily struggles that stand between them and their dreams of higher education. These students are not in the spotlight of news coverage, but they yearn to attend college and build a secure future. Whether they encounter racism or immigration challenges, don’t have family members who have previously paved the path towards college education, or live in low-income families, these students face barriers that can be hard to overcome.
Since the program launched in the 2019-20 school year, 54 graduates of Battle Creek Central High School (BCCHS) who have grappled with those obstacles have been awarded full scholarships to attend GVSU through the Pipeline Scholars program, including 19 members of the class of 2023. Recognizing that addressing financial need alone will not ensure success in college, the Pipeline program also provides peer and faculty mentorship, career navigation support, and on-campus events for students.
The GVSU/BCPS Pipeline Scholarship Program is for students from BCPS who intend to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing, health professions, teacher education or STEM, and encourages recipients to pursue experiential learning and career opportunities in Battle Creek.
The program was established in 2019 as part of a WKKF investment of $15.5 million in GVSU, following WKKF’s historic commitment in 2017 to transform BCPS and ensure 100% success for every Bearcat. This program is one of many supports for BCPS students pursuing higher education, including the recently announced Bearcat Advantage scholarship which covers up to 100% of college tuition for eligible BCPS graduates. These scholarships are all part of WKKF’s commitment to ensure equity of opportunity and increase jobs and talent in Battle Creek.
“So many students face an uphill climb toward a college degree that they believe is out of reach,” said WKKF program officer Megan Russell Johnson, who holds grants to both BCPS and GVSU. “After seeing the difference that our investment in BCPS made in student achievement and confidence, we wanted to continue to support students’ journey of self-discovery beyond high school graduation. The Pipeline Scholarship brings to life the dreams of young people nurtured through the options they now have at BCPS.”
The videos below feature the inspiring stories of five of these students and their determination to overcome the odds and chart a future for themselves different from what might have been without the Pipeline program.