Colorado scholarship initiative invests in students experiencing homelessness
(Colorado News Connection) More than 15,000 students in Colorado have experienced homelessness, and a new grant from the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative will help more of them access a college degree or professional certificate.
Leah Goss, executive director of the nonprofit Hide in Plain Sight said she is planning to use her group's $50,000 matching-fund grant to expand their work with public school districts, high schools, colleges and vocational schools across the state.
"To identify some of these young people that have had this experience or are currently experiencing homelessness, and provide them an opportunity to attend college and really break the cycle," she said.
Homelessness is a major disruptor in young people's educational journey. Goss said most have had to change schools a number of times, and have struggled with attendance, due to housing instability. She added their grades typically do not reflect their abilities or potential. Since 2015, the group has awarded more than $800,000 in scholarships to help people access college without carrying a load of debt. Scholarship applications can be filed starting in June at 'hideplainsight.org.'
If students experiencing homelessness can stick it out and complete a degree or certificate, Goss said they can get jobs that pay enough to provide a home and support a family. 50 years ago people could get a job that paid the bills with a high school diploma, but the vast majority of today's good-paying jobs require some form of post-secondary education, Goss said.
"You don't have to go for four years, or six years. You don't even have to get a two-year degree. But if you can get a credential or a certification in a high-demand skill, you can have a very, very successful career and life," she added.
This year's matching scholarship grants, totaling $7.5 million, are projected to serve more than 5,800 underserved Colorado students. The program as an important investment that will inspire donors across the state to help students access college, a goal many never dreamed was possible, Goss said.
"Just the fact that somebody was willing to invest in them persuaded them that they could do it. Scholarships do more than just pay the bills, they change a student's self image, and give them hope," she added.