Scholarships benefit high-school students who need summer school courses to graduate
As part of its continuing commitment to Albuquerque Public Schools, Nusenda Credit Union this year provided summer school course scholarships, allowing high school seniors to receive their diplomas, and underclassmen stay on track for on-time graduation.
The summer program is for APS students who need to recover credits in order to get back on track with their graduation requirements. This year's scholarships covered a maximum of two summer school courses for 52 students – 22 underclassmen and 30 graduating seniors. Since the partnership began in 2015, this fund has helped 291 students reach their goal of graduating on time with their peers.
The Alliance for Excellent Education reports that even while employed, those who don’t graduate from high school earn about $8,000 a year less than graduates, and approximately $26,500 a year less than college students.
This is one of a series of summer initiatives aimed at helping APS in wraparound services for its students. Nusenda also holds a no-cost, ½-credit elective course focused on financial literacy; and its more than 20 branches are a convenient hub for parents to remit summer school tuition fees.
Summer school tuition at APS can cost upwards of $500 for two classes and must be paid in advance. During this 5-year partnership, Nusenda has supported almost 20% of the summer graduates each year of the partnership, said credit union AVP of Community Relations Darrell Garcia.
"This is one component of our robust support for APS students, parents, teachers, and administrators," Garcia said. "While discounts for summer school tuition are available for low-income families who qualify for free or reduced lunch, an expense such as this could be a barrier for seniors who need summer school courses to graduate on time and do not have other types of financial assistance.
"This relationship with APS is more than simply writing a check," Garcia added. "It demonstrates our commitment to working collaboratively to remove education barriers for students."
For many of Nusenda’s scholarship recipients, they will be the first in their family to graduate from high school or the first to attend college. Many of the students also live in single-parent homes.
"Many of our summer graduates have faced personal obstacles including financial struggles on their journey to earning their diploma, yet they persevered. They also got a much needed helping hand from Nusenda," said APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy. "The scholarships provided by our long-time community partner have helped many students earn the credits they need to become high school graduates. We appreciate this support, and we appreciate all that Nusenda does for Albuquerque Public Schools."
Tyrone Trujillo, a senior from Valley High School in northwest Albuquerque and Nusenda scholarship awardee, promised his great grandmother he’d end his family’s association with drugs, violence, and crime by finishing high school.
"I was in ninth grade and already going down the wrong route," Trujillo said. "She pointed out stuff that helped me realize that it was up to me to change the cycle."
As the sole breadwinner in his home, the scholarship has helped Trujillo relieve some of the financial challenges his family is experiencing.
"Paying for my classes takes away a lot of the stress – I can go in to (summer school) with a clear mind and focus on what’s to come. The one thing that no one can take away is my education."
Laura Valdez, APS’s instructional manager for secondary summer learning, explained this program helps students to both get back on track, to stop them from dropping out, or to earn their 24 credit hours more quickly to graduate sooner.
"During the school year, it is challenging for students to recover credits and get back on track with their graduation requirements – and for many, this is the last opportunity to graduate within their four-year high school career," Valdez said. "We go above and beyond to support the student with registration, transportation, and anything they need to stay the course. (Nusenda’s) tuition scholarship support is a great example of the program’s success – without this kind of support, many (students) would simply not get the opportunity.
"We have seen improved graduation rates that are a direct result of this program – and through our networking with the University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico Community College, and the City of Albuquerque, we are providing a variety of services that further support the summer learner," she added.
For more information on APS’s Summer Learning Programs, visit www.aps.edu/summer-programs.
This year’s Summer High School graduation was held Monday, July 22 at the Kiva Auditorium in Downtown Albuquerque.