aspire update

Michael Cline, 2019-2020 Payson High School valedictorian, left, along with Aspire Arizona President Paul Brocker and PHS Principal Jeff Simon talk about the Aspire program.

Recently, in a Facebook live simulcast on KRIM’s Community Spotlight program, DJ Randy Roberson discussed the Aspire Arizona Foundation’s dual-credit program with Payson High School Principal Jeff Simon, 2020 Payson High School valedictorian and Aspire Arizona Foundation dual-credit student Michael Cline, and AAF President Paul Brocker.

The Aspire Arizona Foundation’s dual-credit program allows high school students to enroll in college courses concurrently with high school classes, earning both high school and college general education credits before they graduate from high school. Depending on how many dual-credit classes that students completes, some may graduate high school having already earned their college associate degree.

A new program that compliments the dual-credit program is the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program. AVID is a college-readiness program to help students develop the skills needed for college success. The program focuses on growing writing, critical thinking, teamwork, organization and reading skills. By teaching and reinforcing academic behaviors and higher-level thinking at a young age, AVID elementary, middle and early high school level teachers create a ripple effect in later grades, so students are prepared for the dual-credit program throughout high school.

Jeff Simon, who was recently awarded Principal of the Year, shared how there are countless benefits to the program for students and families. The ability to “knock out a whole year or more of college” as Roberson says is an enormous savings in both time and money. His own granddaughter has participated in the program. With the Aspire Arizona Foundation paying tuition for the students, the families are relieved of the financial burden of most of their children’s college education while they are still in high school. In fact, the potential savings on in-state tuition for 24 dual-credit hours is nearly $12,000. Their college degree can be finished more quickly, which means they can enter the workforce sooner. Students and their families are taking advantage of this great opportunity, seeing a surge in popularity since it began in 2016. Typically, 160 seats per semester have been full according to Simon.

Michael Cline, the 2020 Payson High School valedictorian and an Aspire Arizona Foundation dual-credit student, agrees, “It has been a huge savings.” He loves the fact that it eliminated a lot of the redundancy he noticed in many prerequisite college freshman classes. While Cline notes that all credits may not necessarily be transferable for his intended degree in mechanical engineering at Embry-Riddle, he is very happy with the program and is moving toward an undoubtedly very successful future. He has received a $72,000 scholarship to attend Embry-Riddle.

Jeff Simon mentioned another advantage of the dual-credit program, it helps ease the transition from high school to college. College can be an intimidating and jarring experience. Academic failure can occur because of the myriad of other changes occurring around the student. The dual-credit program helps the scholar to learn at a college level and pace, while enjoying the comforts of home, hopefully creating less stress for the transition from high school to college. “This is a jump-start to their future,” Simon says.

Paul Brocker is the new president of the Aspire Arizona Foundation. To date, with the help of generous donors, more than 350 students have been helped to enroll in dual-credit classes. Since the inception of the program in the fall of 2016 Payson students have earned nearly 4,000 dual credits and over $200,00 in tuition has been paid. He anticipates a full participation of students this year, earning still more credits.

All monies donated to the Aspire Arizona Foundation, Brocker assures, go directly to funding dual-credit tuition. Everyone at the Arizona Aspire Foundation is a volunteer. They are passionate about the fact that education elevates everyone, as the mission statement declares.

“The MHA Foundation generously provides all office and administrative support. Without that, we wouldn’t exist,” he says.

Private donors make up a lot of funding. Opportunities such as speaking to the media are how the

AAF is able to spread the word. Fundraising is key.

“I understand what happens when kids have an opportunity,” says Brocker, “I have seen kids when they aspire, if you will, to a higher education. I think that, for me, is the real key when we do our annual breakfast and we get to talk to these kids. You think, boy, this has really helped.”

Some current statistics showing the value of the Aspire Arizona’s dual-credit program include:

• Tuition averaged $41,000 per semester in fiscal year 2019-20 as more students participate (a 30% increase in participation since inception) and students are taking more classes — the program now allows students to take up to three classes per semester.

• Since inception, 47 students have earned 25 credits or more, or approximately a full year of college credits.

• A 501c(3), the Aspire Arizona Foundation plans a big fundraising push in the fall, but as Brocker says, any and all contributions are welcome and all are tax-deductible. Another $46,000 is needed to serve the scholars’ tuition needs and invest in the next generation. MHA has and will continue to support the Aspire Arizona Foundation in its mission.

• Anyone interested in getting on the mailing list, volunteering time, or donating, call 928-472-2588 or visit the website at

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