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The Aspire Arizona Foundation seeks to increase the number of dual credit classes it pays for, but it needs the community's help.

The Aspire Arizona Foundation seeks to triple its support to Payson High School students challenging themselves with dual credit courses to start their college careers.

Since 2016, the AAF has paid for one college-level class that also counts toward high school graduation. Now, the organization seeks to cover up to three college level courses per student per semester. This could make it possible for a Payson student to graduate with a year of college already completed.

To do that, Aspire needs the community’s help.

“Aspire’s goal is to make a college education accessible, affordable and attainable for all Payson students,” said AAF President Tom Slonaker. “Please join us in making a lasting impact in the life of a local student today … every dollar matters.”

In order to increase tuition coverage, Aspire staff estimates it will take about $45,000 per semester.

Slonaker said the Aspire website has the capability of accepting donations. The organization takes one-time and ongoing monthly donations. All money donated goes toward scholarships. Aspire donations may only serve as a tax write-off, not an Arizona tax credit.

The Aspire organization has a history of making a difference in local families’ lives. According to U.S. Census data, Gila County has the least number of four-year degree college graduates of any county in Arizona.

Aspire has found many of the students they serve are the first in their family to attend college.

So far this year, Aspire reports 31 percent of Payson High School seniors and 25 percent of juniors have enrolled in dual credit classes.

Since the foundation started, it has helped 256 PHS students take 742 college-level courses.

This jump-start on the college process can save thousands of dollars for local families as all the dual credits transfer directly to all three state universities.

Amy Borges, a PHS senior who will graduate this year, said the program has helped her launch her college career.

“I started taking college classes in my junior year and with all of the classes that you guys have helped me pay for, I will be graduating with a year of college credits so I can get my bachelor’s degree in three years thanks to you guys,” she said, “Thank you so much!”

Aspire board member Sanja Long said Aspire decided on expanding its support after the board heard of the lengths parents would go to keep their students challenged, engaged and moving forward with their dreams of a college degree.

Currently, at the state universities tuition averages around $10,000 a year. Living expenses, fees and books can add up to another $10,000 to the price tag. Every year a family can shave off of the on-campus financial burden adds up quickly.

“We just decided to relieve them so there would be no hardship on Payson families,” said Long.

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contact the reporter at:

I cover the Town of Payson, courts, wildfire, business, families, non-profits, the environment and investigative reporting

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