Grand Canyon University surprised 16 high school seniors from Phoenix and Glendale with full-tuition scholarships on Wednesday evening.

The Students Inspiring Students (SIS) Full-Tuition Scholarship is designed to increase educational opportunities for students with limited financial means. The SIS Scholarship is a collaboration among GCU, local high schools and business and philanthropic leaders.

Each year, the University awards full-tuition scholarships to students from inner-city high schools who maintain a minimum of 3.5 grade point average, demonstrate financial need, and received 100 or more hours of academic assistance at GCU’s Learning Lounge, a free after-school tutoring and mentoring program. Wednesday’s ceremony awarded the first 16 recipients of the year. More ceremonies will take place in Spring of 2020 to award the rest. The average GPA of the first 16 SIS scholarship recipients, who come from nine different Phoenix-area high schools, is 4.1. In addition to high academic achievement, the recipients also must receive strong recommendations from GCU Learning Lounge Leads (Learning Advocates).

When SIS scholarship recipients enter GCU next fall, they will pay it forward as Learning Lounge Leads and provide 100 hours per year of mentoring and academic support to assist the next group of K-12 students.

“This scholarship program is in its fifth year at the university and it works,” said Dr. Joe Veres, GCU’s Vice President of Student Success. “It is rewarding to see these students spend time at the Learning Lounge, get awarded the scholarship and thrive on campus. They are bright, remarkable young men and women who just need a financial boost in order to go to college.”

In the first four years of the program, 262 full-tuition SIS scholarships have been awarded.

“The best part of this program is that, as a donor, you’re not just investing in a younger person who now has an opportunity to get a college education and make a better future for himself or herself,” said GCU President Brian Mueller. “That in itself is inspiring enough. But that scholarship recipient is going to, in turn, impact hundreds more high school students by serving in the Learning Lounge as a GCU student. That lifts up an entire community. Our goal is to create an education-minded inner-city community that people want to be part of.

“The impact this program is having in our state is truly transformational and could become a model that will be emulated nationally.”