The CU Schools Foundation is moving toward its goal of making the CUScholars Program (www.cuscholars.org) a recognized premier student achievement program by accepting a $100,000.00 gift to seed further development of the program’s mission. The CUScholars Program supports the preparation of our local school districts’ high school students for life after high school by encouraging rigor, community involvement and financial literacy as well as other “soft” skills.
The gift from Robert and Sondra Libman of Champaign will be used to grow the program into the local middle schools and to work toward a financial reward for every CUScholar as they successfully complete the program as graduates from our high schools.
The CUScholars Program now in its 3rd year has over 700 students enrolled and expects its first graduates in May of 2014. Students in the program take more rigorous classes than the state required standards, volunteer in the community, maintain their grades and attendance as well as participate in mandatory enrichment — specifically in financial literacy and soft skill development, career exploration and entrepreneurship.
“This program is a result of many forces coming together,” says Gail Rost, Executive Director of the Foundation. “In 2010 we held a business-education summit to discuss ideas about how as a community we could prepare our students for the 21st Century. CUScholars is the result of intense collaboration, extensive planning and cooperation and private support. Partners in the development of the program are our Visionary Sponsors: Busey, Herff Jones, and Horizon Hobby, Inc. and the two school districts, Unit 4 and District 116. County Market is supporting of the financial literacy component for our juniors. Collaborative entities include many departments at the University of Illinois as well as the U of I Extension, Parkland College, each of the high schools’ business departments in addition to their counseling offices, and many local organizations. The Champaign County Chamber of Commerce just recently endorsed CUScholars, too.”
The program is anticipating an additional group of students — freshmen graduating in 2017 — enrolling in the program now through next spring. CUSF soft-launched the new CUScholars website last week (www.cuscholars.org). Students and their families as well as anyone in the community can learn all the details about the program by browsing the site. An on-line enrollment form is now available so that students can enroll conveniently. Plus, there is contact information with direct links to each of our high school’s CUScholars Liaisons on the site, so that students can ask questions of them, or of anyone at CUSF.
The CUScholars Program is available to any interested 8th grader as they enroll for their high school classes or new 9th graders right now. All components of the program are provided free-of-charge. “We want all kids to enroll – we want this to be a CUScholars Community.” Rost says. “We know that a very high percentage of our students will stay here, make CU their home — raise their children here — work here — consume here and determine what this community will become in the future. This is an investment. Cities all over the country are looking at ways to ‘grow their own’. We have CUScholars.”
Rost said she is working on some very exciting new opportunities with new investors in CUScholars right now. She is planning to make some announcements soon about their financial literacy enrichment and financial rewards for current and future CUScholars. “We rolled out the program 3 years ago with the Class of 2015 on not much more than promises. Thanks to growing support and community involvement the program has matured. We gained the communities’ trust and confidence and have delivered every step of the way. The Libman gift will have a tremendous impact on the future of the program. I couldn’t be more excited about the potential this program has for our students!”
The CU Schools Foundation is in its 26th year and supports student achievement through subject areas of STEM, Health and Wellness and the Arts in the Champaign and Urbana schools via grants to teachers, CUScholars, the SOS fund and various student scholarships and designated gifts. It also runs The I.D.E.A. Store as an earned-income enterprise.
For more information about the CU Schools Foundation, CUScholars and other programs, check out www.cuschoolsfoundation.org, www.cuscholars.org, www.the-idea-store.org or call the CUSF office at 217-398-2873. They also can be found on Facebook and twitter.