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Conference builds path to success for scholarship recipients

January 21, 2009
Some 150 Arizona college and university students, all recipients of financial support through the Arizona College Scholarship Foundation (ACSF), gathered in January at Arizona State University’s West campus to learn practical strategies for success in their college careers and beyond.

ACSF is a nonprofit organization comprising concerned Arizona business, education and community leaders and philanthropists. “These stakeholders are working together to make college a reality for high-potential, low-income students,” says Marjorie DeRubeis, ACSF’s director of education.

The third annual ACSF Scholars’ Leadership Symposium featured workshops addressing resume writing and job interviewing, debt management, exploring graduate school and more. Students had the opportunity to interact with officials from Wells Fargo, Salt River Project (SRP) and Science Foundation Arizona, who took part in a panel discussion about sustainability in Arizona. The ACSF scholars also participated in team-building exercises.

“The conference was not only informative and inspirational, but it also was a lot of fun,” says Paola Rodriguez, an ASU student majoring in criminal justice. “I learned some very helpful information about what to expect over the next couple of years, and I had the opportunity to meet students from ASU and other schools.”

Of the 159 students currently receiving scholarships through ACSF, 85 attend ASU. All of ASU’s campuses – Tempe, West, Polytechnic and Downtown Phoenix – are represented among ACSF scholars.

ACSF offers several scholarship programs funded by a variety of sources such as the Helios Education Foundation, GEAR-UP, Carstens Family Fund, BHHS Legacy Foundation, SRP, and individual donors. ACSF scholars receive up to a $6,000 annual scholarship for four years toward the cost of college attendance. They also receive a network of support services, including on-campus mentoring and coaching from ACSF staff, to which DeRubeis attributes students’ 94 percent program retention rate.

On ASU’s Tempe campus, many of the ACSF scholars receive significant support from the Multicultural Student Services (MSS) office.

“During one-on-one meetings with MSS staff mentors, ACSF scholars are encouraged to sign up for tutoring and coaching services,” says Sherril Tomita, MSS assistant director. “We also encourage them to join one of five MSS-sponsored student organizations that specifically focus on freshman year success through a network of peer support and connections with campus resources.”

Tomita says these opportunities for involvement result in benefits on many levels. “Many of the ACSF scholars give back tenfold to ASU and the community with their time, energy and passion,” she says. “They continue to engage in student organizations and positions of leadership, in career-related or Greek Life organizations, in community volunteer service, and in helping to provide services like tutoring from which they previously benefited.”

Rodriguez, a sophomore who attends classes at ASU’s West campus, says she has benefited greatly from the mentorship of Elaine Jordan, director of college internships for ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. “It’s nice to know I have someone I can count on if I need help. Dr. Jordan gives me pointers about how to handle situations in school and life in general, without being bossy and telling me what to do,” she says.

Last year Rodriguez attended a career panel presentation on ASU’s West campus that Jordan organized. One of the speakers was a representative of the FBI, and Rodriguez’s career goal now is to become an FBI agent.

Even with her ACSF scholarship, Rodriguez works full-time while attending ASU as a full-time student. “The scholarship takes a lot of stress off my back,” she says.

“Many ACSF scholars are the first in their family to attend a university, and their family members may not realize that going to college is a demanding job,” Jordan says. “So it’s even more important for these students to have a strong support system on campus.”

“ACSF is dedicated to supporting students like Paola, who have great potential but who otherwise might not be able to afford the cost of pursuing a bachelor’s degree,” DeRubeis says. “We are grateful to ASU for their dedication to our students. This is evident in the number of ASU faculty and administrators who are willing to be mentors to our students and give them the support and information they need to succeed.”

Promising students with financial need are recommended for ACSF scholar programs through ACSF partner organizations, including GEAR-UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), Aguila Youth Leadership Institute, ACE (Achieving a College Education), MESA (Math, Engineering, Science Achievement), and others. More information is available at