Published On: Mon, Dec 18th, 2023

Stephen M. Ross Emerging Scholars Program at Palm Beach State College to Grant Tuition-Free Postsecondary Degrees and Credentials to Middle and High School Students

From left Mayor Keith James, Gopal Rajegowda, Stephen Ross, Ava Paker and Eric Kelly

West Palm Beach, FL – The Stephen M. Ross Emerging Scholars Program at Palm Beach State College, created by Related Companies, was announced during a ceremony at Gaines Park in West Palm Beach. The $8 million gift will support West Palm Beach students in grades 7-12 and follow students through their postsecondary education at Palm Beach State.

The program was developed in partnership with the Foundation for Palm Beach State College led by Vice President of Institutional Advancement and CEO of the Foundation David Rutherford, who attended the ceremony.

“This gift is going to accelerate opportunities for West Palm Beach residents and businesses by helping remove the leading barrier to economic growth, and that’s the knowledge gap,” said PBSC President Ava. L. Parker, J.D. “What’s so amazing about working with Stephen and his vision is that he understands that it’s not enough just to say to 12th-graders it’s time to go to college and here’s a scholarship. He understands the communication and the partnership must start so much earlier in the lives of these students.”

The $8 million gift, the first contribution of the Related Together grantmaking foundation, will ensure that every future graduate of Palm Beach Lakes and Forest Hill High Schools will receive a full scholarship to Palm Beach State College. The Related Together contribution will also be used to fund college readiness programs for students in grades 7-12 to help prepare them for pathways to a postsecondary education and career credentials that will bolster Palm Beach County’s future workforce.

“I’m thrilled to be here,” said Ross during the ceremony. “You want to live to have an impact and do things that can really benefit people. West Palm Beach and Related Together are really in a position to do that and become the model city for this country.”

Additionally, an Early College Academy will be developed at West Palm Beach high schools, which will include paid academic advisors and peer-to-peer student mentors. These student mentors will receive a stipend. The program will also focus on preparing students for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

Attending the ceremony with Parker and Rutherford were Chairman of Related Companies and philanthropist Stephen Ross; Related Together Board Chair Gopal Rajegowda; Mayor of West Palm Beach Keith James; West Palm Beach Commissioners Christina Lambert, Christy Fox and Cathleen Ward; President of the Quantum Foundation Eric Kelly; PBSC former District Board of Trustees Chair Carolyn Williams; PBSC Foundation and Quantum Foundation board members; and others.

“This partnership will help accomplish my administration’s goal and that is to make West Palm Beach a community of opportunity for all,” said Mayor James during the event. 

Each year, Related Together will contribute funds to implement projects and programs focused on six pillars, including education, housing, income and employment opportunities, health care access, arts and culture engagement, and digital accessibility. The success of each program will be defined by attracting scalable philanthropic investments and proactive grantmaking to launch new programs with the goal to reverse the cycle of poverty and support a cycle of growth.

“Related Together’s model is to have businesses that are coming here invest into the community through this program and work with local leaders to bring accelerated and immediate changes that will shape generations of people,” said Rajegowda at the celebration.

In partnership with Related Companies, Related Together was built through the expertise of local leaders, such as Kelly who is recognized for transformative change in underserved communities.

“These neighborhoods have been resilient, and they have resolved to succeed,” said Kelly. “I’m grateful for the leadership of our mayor, Stephen, Gopal, and in particular Ava Parker to acknowledge that these communities have been ready, they certainly are ready and now they have the opportunity to strive and make life better.”

Three pillars of the Stephen M. Ross Emerging Scholars initiative will help equip students and schools with resources to ensure postsecondary attendance, retention, and completion, leading to career readiness and personal success. The pillars include having Palm Beach State advisors embedded into the high schools to work closely with school counselors to guide students through the dual enrollment selection and registration process. 

In addition, the Stephen M. Ross Early College Academy gives access to health sciences, STEM and other high-demand career pathways that empower the individual and impact the community.

Related Together’s organizational structure is comprised of key executive representatives, including Ross, Jeff Brodsky, Ken Himmel, Bruce Warwick, a Board of Directors including Rajegowda, Treasurer Katie Block, and Secretary Jordan Rathlev and supported through local partners and stakeholders, such as the Quantum Foundation, and others to be announced. 

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