Willamette Academy, led by Executive Director Emilio Solano since October 2016, recently received two grants that will help the Academy financially support its students and staff.
Willamette Academy is a college access program housed in the Fine Arts West building that aims to engage local eighth- through twelfth-grade students from historically underrepresented communities in higher education, according to the Willamette website.
People of color, recent immigrants, low-income and first-generation college students benefit from the tutoring and mentoring resources available during the academic year, as well as from the Academy’s annual summer camp.
In order to fund these opportunities, the Academy relies heavily on grants. This past fall, the program received the Meyer Memorial Trust, which allocated $70,000 over a two-year period for general operating support and helped pay the salaries of Solano and the Academy’s student staff.
The second grant was announced in early January: the William G. Gilmore Foundation gave $15,000 to assist with summer camp expenses, like housing and food for participants. Finally, the Academy is expecting to receive a third grant for over $100,000 from the Oregon Youth Development Council later in the semester.
As Solano explained, combining the money from these grants will expand resources for the 150 students involved in the Academy: “We want to consider how else we can help the students we already serve through one-on-one engagement; we definitely don’t want more than 30 or 32 students in a classroom and hope to expand experiential learning opportunities like visiting museums or going hiking.”
Solano emphasized that even small grants are quite competitive to secure, which is why the hard work of Willamette’s grant writers is so crucial and appreciated. He said: “Foundations don’t award grants unless they believe in programs. There must be institutional support, which we have. It is an exciting time for us as we become financially sustainable.”
Part of that mission entails expanding the annual donor base of recent graduates and Willamette students to “make a dent in costs and build momentum.” Another goal is growing the funds from Willamette’s endowment, which account for approximately 20 percent of the Academy’s budget.
Looking to the future, Solano is confident that more can be done to enrich student experience. His dream is to take the tenth-grade participants to the Bay Area, visiting many Oregon and California colleges along the way.
This hope encapsulates what Willamette Academy strives to do: demystify college and prepare students for success while showing what Willamette can offer as an institution. As Solano simply concluded, “When it comes to attending college, our students are going to be ready.”