The Innovia Foundation has announced details of the first phase of its LaunchNW scholarship initiative to help local students pay for college or vocational training.
The Spokane-based community foundation has $70 million committed in its first year of the initiative that pairs scholarships with wraparound resources, including mental health support, food insecurity aid and early learning programs.
“If we’re going to address that generational poverty of forever, this is moving upstream to help our young people pursue that best journey, pursue their dreams of what they want to be and having the support to get there,” said Innovia CEO Shelly O’Quinn. “It is pairing that promise scholarship with that support, because we believe both of them are important.”
Eligible students will receive up to $5,000 in scholarships from the foundation each year of their involvement in their chosen post-high school pathway, including universities, community college, technical training and apprenticeship programs.
Scholarships go toward tuition, intending to fill the gap between financial aid and students’ remaining tuition bill.
O’Quinn estimates 250 students will reap the benefits of the initiative the first year, though the program can accommodate more.
To be eligible, students must participate in a mentorship program offered at eight high schools: Medical Lake, East Valley, Riverside, North Central, Shadle Park, Liberty, Lakeside and University . Students at Rogers High School involved in an existing mentorship program and seniors at Lumen High School and those residing at Catholic Charities properties are also eligible. Students must also come from families whose annual household income is less than $100,000. Over 60% of children in the county meet this mark, according to Innovia.
Scholarships are for regional schools: Eastern Washington University, Washington State University, Gonzaga University, Whitworth University, Whitman University and Community Colleges of Spokane.
“A student who doesn’t have hope for their future or who doesn’t see themselves being capable of going beyond high school, they’re not going to,” said Ben Small, LaunchNW executive director and former Central Valley superintendent. “And so one, we’ve got to help children hope, and we’ve got to support them on that way.”
From government grants, business donations and individuals, Innovia has generated $70 million in commitments the first year. Spokane County Commissioners allocated $5 million last year, as well as $2.5 million in federal funds directed from Congress.
Still in their initial phase of the program, LaunchNW intends to expand offering scholarships to rural communities in Eastern Washington and all schools in Spokane in future years, then later crossing the border to north Idaho students.
By reducing financial barriers, O’Quinn hopes Spokane locals can visualize a future in lucrative careers available in the community that require post-high school education.
“We’re importing our talent,” O’Quinn said. “We need to grow our own.”
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