Timeless Teachings in a Changing World

The mission of the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy at Regis University (PBLA) has remained unchanged since it was established in 1996 - "to assist at-risk students with academic and leadership potential to successfully graduate from high school and have the opportunity to attend


In 2006, NBA star Chauncey Billups joined forces with Porter and the program was renamed the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy at Regis University. Both men grew up in inner city neighborhoods. They credit their success to the people who challenged them at a young age to work hard and get an education. The Academy is a way for both men to do for low-income youth what others did for them.

As the University's flagship college prep program, scholarships up to full tuition to Regis are available to PBLA graduates once they successfully complete the multi-year participation requirement and qualify for admittance. Since the first PBLA college-eligible class in 2002, nearly 30 students have graduated from Regis University.

Target Population:

The Porter-Billups Leadership Academy target population includes students who (1) qualify for low-income, free and reduced lunch status; (2) maintain a strong academic standing and (3) make a commitment to the multi-year participation requirement.


Rising fourth graders complete a rigorous recommendation and application process for the three-week summer program. All students reapply each year and, if admitted, continue through their senior year of high school. The ultimate goal of the Academy is to awaken students to the opportunities available to them, while encouraging them to be thoughtful and engaged members of

their own growth and development.


Students are selected through a rigorous process that begins with a recommendation by a student's teacher at their elementary school. Applicants must exhibit a positive attitude, have good school attendance, and maintain an excellent disciplinary record in their schools. PBLA students are also expected to display a love of learning and leadership qualities in the classroom. Along with the recommendation, students must complete an application, and parents must provide the student's birth certificate and proof of US citizenship. As part of the application process, students are expected to write an essay explaining their desire to be a part of the Academy, followed by a one-on-one interview with the PBLA director. The following demographics apply to the class of 2018 PBLA students: 15% Caucasian/Other and a nearly even split of the remaining 85% of Hispanic and African American (a 10% increase in African Americans from 2017). In terms of gender there are 86 females and 116 males (an increase of 60 males from 2017).

Program Focus and Outcomes:

PBLA has grown significantly since it was established 20 years ago - from 20 students in 1996 to 150 students in 2015. Plans are to increase the number of students admitted each year by 15 until the goal of 225 students is reached in 2020. With expansion comes additional costs associated with the operation of the Academy. There will continue to be no cost for the 3-week Academy to the student or their families. Other expansion costs will include the addition of teachers and changes to the curriculum to meet the contemporary needs of the students. The six hours of academic content each day, which includes grade-specific leadership classes in the morning and enrichment rotations in the afternoon, will continue. The recent addition of two STEM enrichment rotations is an example of needed curriculum changes that also include the addition of equipment and supplies.

Increased year round support is needed of PBLA high school students in grades 9-12 to accommodate growth. The PBLA high school liaison currently works with 54 PBLA students at 27 different high schools. Resources will be needed to address the needs of additional high school students, most of whom are the first in their families to attend college. Additional education sessions will be necessary that provide guidance to students and their parents in navigating the college application and preparation process. ​


The result of the year-round work with PBLA high school students speaks for itself. The class of 2018 had an average GPA of 3.1 and an average ACT score of 22. Key indicators of the Academy's success is evidenced in the high school graduation rate of 98.5% for the 135 PBLA alums, the 83% college attendance rate, and the 70% college graduation rate. Current statistics for PBLA living graduates are as follows:

  • High school graduation rate (living PBLA alumni) = 100%

  • College attendance rate = 80%

  • College graduation rate = 50%

Program Components:

Beginning with students who are about to enter the fourth grade, PBLA targets at-risk Denver metro areas students with academic and leadership potential. The Academy helps them become leaders among their peers, learn that education is the path to success, and offers the skills to prepare them for college. The ultimate goal is to awaken students to the opportunities available, while encouraging them to be thoughtful and engaged members of their own growth and development.  


The first component of the program calls for the provision of a robust academic and enrichment experience for student recruits in grades 4-12 during the three-week summer Academy. Students attend the Academy six hours per day, five days a week, for three weeks. The 2016 summer Academy will be held June 13- July 1. The selection of the northwest Denver Regis University campus is intention, exposing students to a real college campus and planting seeds for a future that includes higher education. Coach Lonnie Porter and a team of Colorado educators work with Academy youth to develop leadership, creative thinking, teamwork, and conflict resolution skills. 


Increasing and/or maintaining high school graduation rates and increasing college attendance and graduation rates for PBLA alums are the ultimate goals of PBLA. Providing year-round support of Academy high school students has proven successful in accomplishing these goals. Verification, confirmation and tracking activities related to high school graduation and college enrollment and graduation are performed by the PBLA liaison, a retired Denver Public School teacher. The liaison performs activities that include updating historical information for year to year comparison and accumulation. Additionally, both PBLA students and parents participate in educational sessions throughout the academic year that provide important tips for navigating the college application process.

Rationale for Approach:

The work of PBLA is both "best practice" and evidence-based." To date, there is no other college prep program in place that is similar to the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy. The commitment of Regis University, along with efforts that engage high need students at any early age and guidance provided by caring adults who are mentors and role models, is unique and effective. The longevity Of PBLA has allowed time to evaluate program results: 98.5% of PBLA students graduate from high school compared to the Denver Public School (DPS) rate of 62.8%, 83% attend college compared to 47.5% for DPS, and 59% graduate from college (comparison information for DPS is not available. ​


Students who successfully participate in the Academy for seven years, and who qualify for admittance, are eligible for a scholarship that covers tuition and fees at Regis University. 

Monitoring and Evaluation Approach:

PBLA data is collected in multiple ways. During each summer session, students and parents of all Academy students are alternately surveyed using Survey Monkey. Data collected includes family size and income, the parents' highest education level achieved and if the student is the first in their family to graduate from high school. PBLA educators collect gender/ethnicity data directly from their classrooms each summer. ​


Currently, 54 PBLA students at 27 different high schools are monitored by the liaison. A general information sheet is maintained for each student in grades 8 through 12 and includes information on their schools, counselor, and summary of college preparatory classes needed. PBLA parents complete the necessary paperwork that allows the liaison to access student transcripts with grades and standardized test scores. Counselors are contacted annually by the liaison who discusses PBLA expectations for taking college preparatory classes and academic success necessary to meet those requirements. These efforts have proven successful and provide better support to PBLA and the students at their school. ​


During the fall of each year, the liaison works specifically with PBLA graduating seniors, their parents and their counselors to help them meet the special application due date for Regis. Each student has a file that includes their Regis online application, transcripts, ACT/SAT scores, letters of recommendation, and their essay. All PBLA alums are contacted annually for 4-5 years to update alumni tracking information that includes college attendance and graduation rates.

Quality Improvement:

Based on the evaluation results noted in the previous section, PBLA administrators are provided with important information. For example, workshops for parent education relevant to college entrance requirements resulted in parent survey responses. Because many PBLA students are the first in their families afforded the opportunity to attend college, parents and students need guidance in how to navigate the college application process. To address this need, several parent/student meetings have been added during students' junior and senior years. Entrance requirements and deadlines are discussed, as is the PBLA scholarship, and possible avenues for additional scholarship monies. Support is provided for essay writing and discussions which specifically address the entrance requirements as they pertain to Regis University. Key University staff are invited to ensure students are guided properly. PBLA also partners with local area banks and credit unions that provide financial literacy opportunities for PBLA students and their parents as preparation is made for college. Debt associated with credit cards is specifically addressed. All PBLA educators are certified teachers, some of whom are PhDs. All of the educators offer the PBLA focus areas that include communications, life skills, financial literacy, STEM, and college readiness. The use of these types of educators allows PBLA to have access to the research that supports the need for the coursework offered to students during the summer Academy.

© 2020 by Porter-Billups Leadership Academy at Regis University | 3333 Regis Blvd., A-17 Denver, CO 80221

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