Mercantile Bank and AT&T give $120K to Upward Bound programs


Mercantile Bank operates branches in Grand Rapids, Holland and Lansing. Image via

It’s been a rewarding winter for Upward Bound.

The federal growth program aimed at helping high school students learn the skills to succeed through high school and college received local funding of up to $120,000 in January.

The first donation came from AT&T’s Aspire program, which recently gave a $20,000 award to Grand Rapids Community College for the school’s Upward Bound program.

Upward Bound will use the funds to create three Success Clubs.

The three clubs will provide more than 90 students at Creston and Ottawa Hills high schools with activities related to subjects they're interested in studying: business and entrepreneurship, technology and arts, and health and wellness.

The second big donation for the Upward Bound program came during Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell’s State of the City address, when Mercantile Bank representatives made a $50,000 contribution to GRCC’s Upward Bound.

Mercantile also made a $50,000 donation to Grand Valley State University’s Upward Bound program, putting Mercantile’s total giving at $100,000 split between the universities.

“We are very grateful for this generous gift. Through funds dedicated to this program, we anticipate individual student progress to increase, thus (creating) an overall increase in program success,” said Raynard Ross, director of GRCC’s Upward Bound program.

GRCC’s Upward Bound senior class received acceptance notification from more than 150 colleges and universities nationally this year and earned $900,000 in renewable scholarships.

Ninety-three percent of Upward Bound participants of the last five years have enrolled in college, of which 95 percent are either working toward or have completed their bachelor’s degrees.

The AT&T Foundation will also give $10,000 to Grand Rapids-based Jubilee Jobs to support its YES 4 U project. YES 4 U is a program that prepares students for career awareness, academic success, character development and economic literacy.

Habitat for Humanity of Kent County also received $10,000 to help students in the YouthBuild program earn high school diplomas or GEDs and develop work readiness and self-sufficiency training.

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