LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A small Bible school in Louisville is seeking students from the city's poorest zip codes for a new scholarship program.
Simmons College is partnering with the University of Louisville, other colleges and local churches to find students who have the desire but maybe not the money or grades they need to pursue a degree.
Starting this year, the Simmons Scholars program will offer 25 students from the city's 40203, 40210, 40211 and 40212 zip codes in western Louisville the chance to attend classes for free, The Courier-Journal reported (http://cjky.it/10nznH8 ). The scholarship students will live in dorms at nearby Spalding University.
The classes will be taught by U of L professors, and students can transfer credits to the university or to another state school after two years in the program.
"It really is a blessing to be here," said Bianca Hollis, a scholarship student who previously had dropped out after two years at Wilberforce University in Ohio. "It's really like my fourth or fifth chance."
The idea for a partnership between Simmons and U of L began several years ago as the schools began working to figure out how to reach young people in western Louisville who were graduating from high school or obtaining their GEDs but passing on college.
Simmons College president Kevin Cosby said the intent is to lift some of the city's poorest neighborhoods out of poverty by educating young people and offering them new opportunities.
"The idea is that these kids who would not be in college would now be on their way to college," Cosby said.
Professor Dave Howarth, who has taught classes at Simmons for about seven years, said the free courses are important to students who are working just to help pay the bills at home. Even with the free courses, the need to earn money has derailed some students, he said.
"We've lost a couple along the way in part because their families depend on them working, and they just couldn't juggle both," Howarth said.
Jamaal Pickens, 24, said Cosby encouraged him to apply for the program after they met at a conference. If not for the Simmons program, Pickens said he would "still (be) preparing to go back to school."
Pickens said he spent one year on a football scholarship at Kentucky State University after graduating from Woodford County High School but he wasn't focused and dropped out.
He said he's glad for the chance to be back in school and hopes to go on to U of L to get a degree in economics.
Right now, Simmons only offers degrees in religious study and religious music, but Cosby said he hopes to begin offering liberal arts degrees soon.
Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com