Tears Flow as 3rd-Graders Surprised With Free College

It's the second such gift from Arizona's Rosztoczy Foundation—and not the last
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2022 1:11 PM CDT

(Newser) – A group of 63 third-graders in Phoenix, Ariz., have just been offered a full ride to college. And don't worry, the offer did not come from the overpromising Michael Scott. Instead, it's from Arizona's Rosztoczy Foundation, a private family organization with a history of following through, per KSAZ. A decade ago, it offered full state college scholarships to 84 third-graders at Avondale's Michael Anderson School. Erika Valadez is one of 34 students who have since enrolled in college. Without this "really big opportunity," her college dream would have been delayed for several years, the 19-year-old freshman at Phoenix's Grand Canyon University tells the Washington Post. "It changed the course of my life."

The late Hungarian-born chemist Ferenc E. Rosztoczy, who founded the Rosztoczy Foundation in 2005, introduced the College Promise program in 2012 so that students in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas could attend a state college. His widow and sons now run the foundation and, after hearing success stories like Valadez's, decided to repeat his gift. "We felt like it [made a difference]," Tom Rosztoczy tells the Post. Now, all third-grade students at Phoenix's Bernard Black Elementary School will have their tuition and room and board covered, so long as they graduate from the local public high school district and maintain a grade-point average of 2.0 or higher.

Quintin Boyce, superintendent of the Roosevelt School District, where 86% of students are economically disadvantaged, broke the news to students and parents at what they thought was a regular assembly on April 25. As the Post reports, "nearly every parent broke down in tears of joy." Many said they couldn't imagine saving enough for a four-year program. This "guarantees him that he can have a better future," father Jorge Luna tells KPNX of his son. More tears are likely to be shed: The Rosztoczy family says another group of third-graders will be surprised with a free ride to college next month. They add the foundation is working up to awarding the scholarships to two elementary schools per year. (Read more uplifting news stories.)

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