Hope Scholarship Program

What is the HOPE Scholarship Program?

The HOPE Scholarship is a program for youth ages 12-14 that provides support for improvement in academic performance, personal responsibility and life skills. Our main focus is on increasing academic performance in 100% of our youth.

What challenges do we address?

The Ypsilanti school system faces widespread challenges that have resulted in across-the-board under-education for students, particularly those from low-income families. By the end of the 4th grade low-income Ypsilanti students are, on average, performing two years behind grade level; youth living below the poverty line have an even lower chance of receiving instruction appropriate to their grade level.

How did the HOPE Scholarship Program get started?

In the summer of 2013, while discussing the merger between the Willow Run and Ypsilanti School Districts, Dedicated to Make a Change director Gail Wolkoff started looking for supplementary academic support and service learning programs for Ypsilanti youth. She found a distinct lack of support for youth, and that academic programs for adolescents were virtually nonexistent. In order to meet that need, Gail and Angela Stanley designed the HOPE Summer Program for youth ages 12-15. The program focused on providing individualized academic support for students with lots of one-on-one attention geared toward optimizing each student’s growth and success. Instruction was provided for two hours each day in reading, writing and math. The program supplemented the academic work with Thursday field trips to colleges, universities, and other educational institutions in the area to give students a broader knowledge of the educational opportunities available to them and service work trips to foster a sense of community responsibility. Students were paid a small weekly stipend for their participation, and were required to open and maintain their own bank accounts in order to deposit and manage their earnings. The summer program was tremendously successful. Here are just a few comments from participants:

“I started to come because I needed the money. After the first week, I was having fun and would have continued coming even if I was not being paid. I liked coming.”

“Writing with Fiona every Friday was the best.”

“I don’t know why Gail let me stay. I know I have an attitude and she accepted me and helped me to learn ways to not have an attitude.”
“It should have been longer.”

Recognizing the need for continued academic support during the school year, Gail designed the HOPE Scholarship Program as a continuation of the HOPE Summer program focusing on supporting the developmental and academic improvement of each participant. The program increases interest in learning and supplements and solidifies the education gained in school, encouraging students and increasing their motivation to learn.

What does the HOPE Scholarship look like?

Each participants sets an initial meeting with Gail during which they review the HOPE Scholarship Program participant work agreement and agree upon work dates and times. Topics to be covered during the program include:
Math (geometry and algebra)

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Science and lab skills
  • Social studies
  • Problem-solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Community involvement

Why are high school students being paid to learn?

Dedicated to Make a Change is committed to making sure the HOPE Scholarship Program is accessible for any youth who wishes to participate. For long-term programs like the HOPE Scholarship, compensation for time spent is a way of making the program available to youth who would otherwise have to be working after-school jobs to support themselves. Youth are paid $5 an hour. Pay is received each Friday. Upon receiving their first paycheck, youth are provided with transportation to the bank to open their own accounts, where they are required to deposit at least 25% of their pay. An additional $10 bonus is available to youth who attend for 30 days or more. Pay is contingent upon attending sessions with an open-minded, respectful attitude; participants who demonstrate inappropriate behavior will be asked to leave their session without pay after their first infraction, and a second infraction will result in dismissal from the program.

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