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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 33 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.


New applicants 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.


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 from 22 students in 1996 to 196? in 2021.  Our goal is to return to our pre-pandemic enrollment of 215 students in 2022. Students continue to attend the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy for 3-weeks in the summer at no cost to the student or their families. However, the costs incurred to the Academy increases with our growth.  PBLA’s expenses include bus transportation for students, breakfast and lunches, additional teachers for smaller class sizes, changes to the curriculum to meet the contemporary needs of the students, the addition of equipment and supplies, and a year-round liaison who recruits and communicates with current students as well as student alums.


The result of the year-round work with PBLA high school students speaks for itself. Key indicators of the Academy's success: 


  • PBLA serves 215 students grades 4-12 each summer at Regis University 

  • Since its inception in 1996, 202 students have graduated from Porter-Billups Leadership Academy after having attended the Academy for a minimum of 7 years.

  • 99.5% on time high school graduation rate

  • 55% of the college bound students who are eligible have graduated  A total of 68 PBLA graduates have graduated from Regis University and other colleges and universities across the country.  

  • Seventy-five students have attended Regis University with 34 Regis graduates to date.

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 selection of the northwest Denver Regis University campus is intentional, 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 former DPS teacher. The liaison performs activities that include updating historical information for year to year comparison and accumulation, as well as communication with students and parents.. Additionally, both PBLA students and parents participate in educational sessions throughout the academic year that provide important tips for navigating the college application process.

​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. 

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 an 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: 99.5% of PBLA students graduate from high school compared to the Denver Public School (DPS) rate of 62.8%, from 2015-present, 82% of the PBLA graduates attend/are committed to colleges compared to 47.5% for DPS.  59% of PBLA college attendees graduate from college (comparison information for DPS is not available).  

Monitoring and Evaluation Approach:

PBLA data is collected in multiple ways. Each spring, new students must apply and returning students reapply to the Academy.  This application allows updated data from students/families to be collected.  Data collected includes family size and income, free and reduced lunch, the parents' highest education level achieved and if the student is the first in their family to graduate from high school, gender/ethnicity, as well as the schools/districts attended. Students also submit elementary report cards or high school transcripts which allow us to monitor academic progress. 


During the summer prior to their academic senior year, the liaison works specifically with PBLA graduating seniors and their parents to help them meet the requirements for the common application for college including: writing essays, letters of recommendation, due dates to apply for FAFSA and to Regis University. 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, FAFSA and other 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, and many of whom hold a Masters degree in Education. All of the educators offer the PBLA focus areas that include social justice, communications, life skills, financial literacy, STEAM, and college readiness. These educators allow PBLA to have access to the expertise, research and materials that support the coursework offered to students during the summer Academy.