Two Major Grants Help to Drive College Success

Racquet Up Detroit is celebrating success in its college access program, which has been backed by two major grant awards from foundations based in metro Detroit.

All of Racquet Up’s students who graduated from high school in 2018 enrolled in college and are now being supported to stick with it. These students had been in the youth development program for eight consecutive years. The schools they are now attending include St. Lawrence University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Grand Valley State University, Ferris State, Albion College, Michigan Tech, Wayne County Community College District, and Lake Erie College.

In addition, Racquet Up’s current class of seniors is on course to repeat the 100% college enrollment rate, having gained acceptances from schools such as Denison, Wayne State, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Michigan State.

The Racquet Up College Success Program has been boosted by two significant grants. The Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation has made a $120,000 two-year commitment to Racquet Up’s College Success and Career Pathways Programming. The funding will help all 110 of the program’s students, 5th through 12th grade, to engage in college prep and support activities aimed at ensuring all of the recent program graduates go on complete a degree. Career exploration for high school students is also funded by the grant. The Jamie and Denise Jacob Family Foundation has also committed to supporting Racquet Up’s college success program for the next two years with a grant of $70,000. The funds will help high school students to access college opportunities while supporting students to succeed in their post-secondary programs.

Derek Aguirre, Executive Director of Racquet Up Detroit, said: “We are so proud of our first class of college students. They committed to our program of intensive academics, squash, and enrichment for eight years, and have realized their goal of a college education. We look forward to our current seniors following in the footsteps of our founding class.”

“The success of our program would not be possible without the generous support of the community, and we are deeply grateful for the significant grants from the Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation and the Jamie and Denise Jacob Family Foundation. These contributions will have a direct impact on the success of Detroit students in college and will help more youth to overcome the barriers to college access.”

Virginia Romano, Executive Director of the Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation, said:
“A key pillar of the Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation’s grantmaking is the empowerment of children to realize their potential through improved access to academic, personal, and social development opportunities. Racquet Up Detroit’s program supports youth over many years to improve their academics, graduate from high school, and make it to college. With this grant, we are pleased to partner with Racquet Up in its efforts to ensure Detroit youth are prepared to pursue a fulfilling career path.”

Megan Fenkell, Executive Director of the Jamie and Denise Jacob Family Foundation, said:
“The Jamie and Denise Jacob Family Foundation knows that the journey to and through college is a challenge for all young adults. But there are additional barriers for young adults who may be the first to go to college in their families or who face financial challenges. We know that the best chance for these youth to graduate is if they are provided intensive support through mentoring and other support services. And Racquet Up does just that, providing a variety of services and intensive mentoring to support their students throughout their journey at college.”

Background information
College access and college persistence continue to be challenging in Detroit. With just 80% of DPSCD students graduating from high school, 60% of those enrolling in college, and 16% obtaining a degree within five years, there is a need among youth and their families for additional support.

Racquet Up’s program is based on a proven model of youth development, which was pioneered in Boston over 20 years ago and has been replicated in 19 US cities. Nationally, these programs have supported 95% of their students to graduate from high school and enroll in college, and 65% have completed their degree within six years (compared to the national average of 24% for low income students).

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