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Stories of Impact

Learning Initiatives

Supporting the College Dreams of University Prep Students

"Many of our students receive four-year scholarships, but they end up leaving it on the table to go to community college because they can't afford room and board. Funding from the Walters Family Foundation helps to close those gaps.”

Mark Ornstein, Chief Executive Officer, University Prep Schools

As one of the city’s longest-standing tuition-free public charter school systems in Detroit, U Prep has served thousands of students since 2000. One of its missions is to keep a 90/90 promise, which guarantees a minimum graduation rate of 90 percent and college acceptance rate of 90 percent. U Prep has surpassed this standard with every graduating class since its first in 2007.

A student at University Prep Schools.Download a high-resolution version of this photo.

However, while many of its students receive full-ride scholarships to first-class universities, some do not have the financial means to cover room and board. “Often times our students are longing to experience life outside the city but can't make that leap for various financial reasons. Sometimes they feel they need to sacrifice their ambitions to stay closer to home and start contributing to their parents’ household. Other times, they simply can't afford to move away and actually make ends meet and earn their degrees,” says Mark Ornstein.

For many years, the Walters family personally contributed to the U Prep scholarship fund to help close the gap for students. For the past four years, the Walters Family Foundation has funded U Prep scholarships, supporting the college aspirations of more than 100 U Prep students.

Mark Ornstein says this is critical for the students’ sense of self-discovery, offering them an opportunity to learn about the world that exists beyond what they have seen so far. He says, “It has literally changed the trajectory of their lives.”