Since 2016, the Aspire Arizona Foundation has helped more than 400 Rim Country students receive college credit, and now it hopes to do more with the community’s support.

Paul Brocker, president of Aspire, announced to the gathered business leaders at the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon on April 20 that he seeks to expand fundraising. He hopes to include local businesses, along with more individuals, to cover ever-increasing education costs.

“This year, our per credit cost went up,” he said.

When each class averages four credits and the organization supports dozens of students each semester, an increase of $5 per credit makes a difference.

Aspire created a tiered donor list that identifies the impact of the donation. Donations from $100 to $5,000 support anywhere from half a class cost to three years of college credits.

Other fundraising opportunities include a golf tournament on Aug. 21 and putting a jar at cash registers around town.

Brocker told the chamber members if each business in town donated $50 to Aspire, he estimated it would amount to $12,500. That much money would pay for 36 credit hours in a semester.

Brocker has a deep commitment to the mission of Aspire. The organization supports Rim Country youth to consider a higher education by making college accessible, attainable and affordable.

“If we can help students to get those basics out of the way and start as almost a sophomore (in college), we’ve saved them $12,000 to $15,000,” said Brocker.

He brought along Payson High School valedictorian Alyssa Boerst to introduce the chamber members to the type of student taking advantage of the Aspire program.

Boerst will graduate high school not only as valedictorian, but also with an associate degree. She told the chamber audience taking those dual-credit classes gave her the confidence to succeed at a long list of extracurricular activities, besides her academics.

“I took my first Aspire funded dual-enrollment class during my freshman year — I completed coursework meant for college freshmen as a 14-year-old,” she said. “I challenged myself because I knew that I could, essentially, enabling me to set higher expectations for myself in all my pursuits academic or extracurricular.”

She then listed off her accomplishments from chairing a town youth advisory committee to holding several offices in peer counseling groups to competing on the varsity track team.

“I genuinely do not believe that I could have accomplished all of those things without the help of the Aspire program,” she said.

In his 25 years in higher education in Colorado, Brocker saw many students find the same spark Boerst did. He got addicted to helping.

“I was fortunate we had ... students to work in our offices, he said. “I had students that came in as freshmen, and I was overwhelmed with their growth.”

Because the dual-credit classes cover core subjects such as English, science and math, they also serve to satisfy high school graduation requirements.

Since Aspire launched, students have taken 633 English classes, 505 math classes, and 214 science classes. More than half have earned As while 25% earned Bs. Almost half the students who take dual-credit classes take two or more.

Brocker hopes he can get the community to embrace supporting its youth going to college with no costs to their families.

“My hope would be that this would be a natural community program to help the kids,” he said.

Contact the reporter at mnelson@payson.com

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