Children First Utah helps low-income students get quality education
KSL.com (video and article)
March 22nd, 2010 @ 6:36pm
By Carole Mikita
SALT LAKE CITY -- Ten years ago, a group of business people saw a need to find better educational opportunities for minority students in our state.
What is... Children First Utah?
Children First Utah is an innovative nonprofit organization that provides partial scholarships and educational options to qualified low-income families.
Since then, Children First Utah (CFU), a non-profit foundation, has provided scholarships for more than 2,500 low-income children to attend private schools.
CFU's founder believes every child deserves a quality education, and minority students are less likely to have choices if the neighborhood school isn't making a connection.
Alexi Johnson can be found taking notes in Paul Pearson's psychology class at Westminster on Monday mornings. It all looks so normal, but this was only a distant dream a few years ago.
To qualify for scholarships:
If total # of family members is:
Total family income must be less than:
Source: Children First Utah
She was the only African-American in her elementary school. Her 5th grade teacher told her not to expect much in life: "[He said,] ‘You won't go to college, you won't be successful, you'll end up pregnant,'" Johnson said.
That's when Alexi's mother applied for help with Children First Utah.
Jordan Clements was educating his five daughters when he says he became painfully aware of the educational divide -- the "haves" and the "have nots." CFU was his idea.
"This is unconscionable," Clements said. "In a modern society, as wealthy as we are, that we aren't providing educational options for all children in the state of Utah."
Did you know...
Public School Facts
Utah's school-age population is expected to increase by 140,000 new students over the next few years.
In Utah, approximately half of Latinos fail to graduate from High School.
Approximately half of American Indian, Hispanic, and Black students fail core curriculum tests each year.
Only 11.5% of low income students in Utah go to college.
-Children First Utah
In 15 years, $15 million from donors and parents has helped 2,500 students -- and 1,500 are on the waiting list.
The foundation matches private donations and parents' tuition payments.
"We provide half tuition scholarships but the other half has to be matched by the family, at extraordinary sacrifice," Clements said. "Parents take two and three jobs."
Alexi Johnson says she is grateful to her mother, CFU and her many nurturing teachers for changing her life. A biology major, she carries a 3.8 grade point average and hopes to go onto medical school.
Since the first awards in 2001 over 1,300 scholarships have been provided, however over 1,500 children remain unaided on a waiting list. -Children First Utah
"When you're given a chance to speak up like I was and gain an education, you can go so far, like me," Johnson said. "I'm going to be the first college graduate in my family."
Children First Utah administrators are honoring the scholars, their families and the founders at a fundraising breakfast Tuesday morning at Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City.