Almost 20 years ago, Gary and Melissa Trujillo decided to make a positive impact by changing educational aspirations of youth from underserved communities in Phoenix. They founded Be a Leader Foundation (BALF), which partners with schools to increase the number of college-bound students by providing leadership training as well as personal guidance and mentoring.
BALF started with 32 students and has grown to serving over 3,300 primarily middle and high school students in urban schools. Robust programming offers youth the opportunity to build critical thinking skills, self-esteem and leadership in preparation for college and personal success. More than 94% of BALF student participants are classified as minority and more than half come from homes where English is not the primary language. BALF’s goal is simple – that every participant gets a college degree.
Impressed with the work of BALF, in late 2016, the Opus Foundation awarded a $50,000 Impact Fund grant to support two important initiatives—a new matriculation curriculum and the expansion of BALF’s Be a Leader Institute College.
“This is a significant corporate grant,” said Melissa Trujillo, president and CEO of Be a Leader Foundation. “It is allowing us to expand our programming and try new things we haven’t done before. We are very grateful of the Opus Foundation.”
The majority of BALF’s high school student participants attend Phoenix Union High School District. It’s a large district with more than 27,000 students, and there’s great need to increase BALF’s capacity to reach more students. A portion of the Opus Foundation grant will be used to develop and scale a more comprehensive postsecondary matriculation curriculum for Phoenix Union high school seniors.
The improved program will be more individualized consisting of one-on-one sessions or counseling small groups of high school seniors, helping them realize and navigate their college options. In addition, the program will offer a Summer Transition Academy to address the social and emotional aspects of transitioning to college for first-generation college students. BALF plans to engage with a minimum of 90% of Phoenix Union’s high school seniors.
Be a Leader Institute College
The Opus Foundation grant is also helping to bolster Be a Leader Institute College (BLIC). It’s a comprehensive success program for college students that takes BALF’s focus on college access a step further by helping students thrive at college and achieve a degree.
The BLIC program was started in 2011 and has been run by volunteers. Just a few workshops were offered each year, primarily for college students at Arizona State University. The grant will allow BALF to significantly expand the program and hire a full-time college coordinator. The goal is to serve a minimum of 300 college students through a minimum of six on-campus workshops.
It’s exciting to see BALF’s great work expand thanks to their hard work and diligence and the support of the Opus Foundation.
Learn more about the Opus Foundation and Opus’ giving.
The Opus Foundation is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families through grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work.