Alyyssa Boerst

Alyssa Boerst is one of the ambitious students who have accomplished the incredible feat of completing both her high school requirements and enough college coursework to qualify for her associate degree by the time she finishes high school and receives her diploma through the Aspire Arizona Dual-Credit Program.

Aspire Arizona Foundation President Paul Brocker, Payson High School student Alyssa Boerst, and Payson High School Principal Jeff Simon, recently were guests of DJ Randy Roberson on KRIM’s Community Spotlight. The group discussed the Aspire Arizona Foundation’s Dual-Credit Program.

Boerst is one of the ambitious students who have accomplished the incredible feat of completing both her high school requirements and enough college coursework to qualify for her associate degree by the time she finishes high school and receives her diploma. Aside from two credits taken outside of the program, the Aspire Arizona Dual-Credit Program took care of all the rest of the credits necessary to make that degree possible for Boerst.

So now as a senior getting ready to graduate, she will be “hitting the ground running” as Roberson states, with her first two years of college completed and all prerequisite classes for university studies taken care of before leaving high school.

The definition of a success story, Boerst is looking at many schools, including Duke, to major in economics. She took her first dual-credit class, math, her sophomore year. In addition to her academics, Boerst has also participated in basketball, track, National Honor Society, peer tutoring, and Link Crew, holding officer posts in many of these groups over the years.

She isn’t the only one aiming for her associate degree now. Other students are following her lead. The teachers are doing a good job of getting students to see the benefits of the program and helping high school students understand college level academic material. Students also begin thinking about how they will save some money by taking dual-credit courses while still in high school, Boerst says. Aspire Arizona Foundation’s generosity has helped many families be able to afford to make college education a possibility, which is exactly the mission they set out to accomplish.

“We love to hear these stories. We have the privilege of holding an annual breakfast with these scholars. I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many of these students. We’re in a small town. The students don’t necessarily have every advantage the big city might have, so we came up with this concept five years ago: let’s try to help our local students to earn college credits while they are still in high school. The program has been very successful. We’re going to start this year’s fundraising campaign in the next month or so because we anticipate even more students participating this year. We’re anticipating around 140 participants. So we have to raise some dollars to be able to make sure that we can cover that college tuition,” says Brocker.

PHS Principal Jeff Simon reflects on his own high school experience in comparison to what Payson Aspire Scholars have access and opportunity to and he is blown away by the generosity shown by the community in the past, and hopes it continues on forward in the future for PHS students.

“It’s unbelievable. We can’t thank Aspire enough,” says Simon.

The concept originally was a conversation to be able to partner high school and college. The whole idea is that higher education is important and we as a community want to provide the support to help students aspire for that. To let them know that it is there and it is available and accessible. To let them know that it is not as scary as it seems, that it is manageable. Most of the focus is to get the prerequisite core courses taken care of. Aspire wanted to help the students to understand that they can do it.

The Aspire Arizona Dual-Credit Program offers students the ability to ease into the college experience while still in high school, still living within the comfort of home.

“The Payson community needs to see the value of this and how it impacts our kids. These are our people,” says Brocker. “It gives them a sense of what they will see in college. There is a fairly significant mailing that is done in November. You can call 928-472-2588 leave your name and number to be placed on the mailing list. We ask that you support these students. Any gift is appreciated. The goal this year is to raise $51,000 to cover scholar tuition. The Aspire Arizona Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization so every donation is a tax deductible contribution.”

“We couldn’t do it without the MHA Foundation, they also provide a dollar for dollar match” Brocker says with a resigned shrug explaining that the Aspire Arizona Foundation was only created to raise tuition dollars to go directly to students. Volunteers do all work. The MHA Foundation provides all administration and overhead generously. “Just wouldn’t happen otherwise. So we’re really grateful to them.”

Parents can ask PHS staff about the dual-credit program.

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