ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Washington State University will host some 563 Washington State Achievers Scholarship candidates for a four-day, all-expenses-paid summer program June 24-27.

The scholars, high-achieving juniors from low-income families, have received the scholarship that covers four years of undergraduate study. The intent of the Achievers College Experience (ACE) is to give the Achievers Scholarship candidates a jump-start on their college admissions and financial aid planning. The candidates are just finishing their junior year of high school.

Activities on the WSU campus will include a college fair, information on how to best use a mentor for educational planning, and details about the ins and outs of admissions and financial aid applications.

“WSU is delighted to have the students on its Pullman campus,” said James Bledsoe, coordinator of recruitment for Multicultural Student Services. “While talking about the value of higher education, we have the opportunity to showcase WSU.”

The Achievers Scholarship program was established by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2001 as part of a comprehensive initiative to increase the higher education opportunities for low-income students in the state. In addition to the scholarships, the initiative provides financial incentives and technical support to 16 Washington high schools to redesign into smaller learning communities where all students are prepared to enter college. Washington Education Foundation manages the scholarship portion of the initiative, which is available only to students from the 16 Achievers High Schools.

“The Achievers Scholarship program gives high-achieving, low-income students an opportunity for college planning, mentorship by a caring adult professional, and college scholarship support once they enter college,” said Bob Craves, CEO and president of the Washington Education Foundation and chair of the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board. “We believe this combination of support and funding is critical to helping students who wouldn’t normally be able to attend college to earn four-year bachelor’s degrees.”

“The Washington State Achievers program represents a truly innovative effort to help communities and students reach their highest potentials,” said Deborah Wilds, Education Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is proud to help students realize their dream of attending college and to help expand educational opportunities within the state of Washington.”

In its fourth year, the scholarship program has made a college education possible for more than 2000 disadvantaged students in Washington.

Each of the 563 candidates must meet program expectations in terms of college planning, mentoring and ultimately graduating from one of the 16 Achievers High Schools and entering college in the fall of 2004.

The Washington Education Foundation ( www.waedfoundation.org) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides college scholarships and mentoring to low-income, high potential students. The foundation’s largest programs are the Washington State Achievers Program, the Costco Scholarship Fund, the Governor’s Scholarship for Youth in Foster, Group & Kinship Care, and the Chateau Ste. Michelle Scholarship Fund.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is building upon the unprecedented opportunities of the 21st century to improve equity in global health and learning. Led by Bill Gates’ father, William H. Gates Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based foundation has an endowment of approximately $24 billion.