Act Six is a leadership and scholarship program that connects local faith-based community affiliates with faith- and social justice-based colleges to equip emerging urban and community leaders to engage the college campus and their communities at home through a simple but powerful four-part strategy:


The Beginnings

In 2002, frustrated by the reality that too many of Tacoma’s talented future leaders were not completing their college degrees, and inspired by the success of the New York-based Posse Foundation, Northwest Leadership Foundation approached Whitworth University with a bold idea to invest in a new kind of leadership for the campus and the community.

What would happen if we selected and trained cohorts of emerging leaders from the urban community and sent them together to college with full scholarships and charge to be agents of change?

Undeterred by the substantial cost and many unknowns, Whitworth took the risk and with initial scholarship support from Palmer Scholars, a powerful partnership was launched.  NLF and Whitworth got to work and the first 11 scholars arrived on campus in 2003. Four years later all 11 of those first scholars graduated from Whitworth with records of distinguished leadership, service and academic achievement.

Be inspired as you watch the first Act Six cadre graduate from Whitworth in 2007.

Building on that early success, the Act Six network has steadily expanded and now includes 16 colleges partnering with six affiliates in nine cities across two regions.

The Need

There are underserved communities across the country that enjoy wonderful cultural and economic diversity where people from different backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences have regular opportunities to interact and communicate. Yet these communities also yearn for new generations of committed, visionary leaders who will build bridges across differences and respond creatively to the pressing challenges they confront.

Unfortunately, too few colleges working to prepare the next generation of leaders provide similarly diverse campus environments and too many potential campus and community leaders face significant obstacles on the journey to a college degree. People of color and those from low-income families are still underrepresented in higher education and there remain significant disparities in college retention rates for students from different cultural and economic backgrounds. The Act Six initiative was created as a way to address this issue by educating, inspiring and equipping a new generation of visionary, committed community leaders.

The Vision

Act Six believes that emerging urban and community leaders, with the right opportunity, support and inspiration, can combine their natural gifts and passion with a college education to create a new kind of bold, visionary leadership that will transform our campuses, our communities and our collective future.

When you think about moments of significant positive change that have happened in your community, you can usually point to a group of connected people who made it happen. Networks of effective leaders working together get things done. The problem is that those leadership networks don’t always look like or represent the full breadth of a community, and as a result, some groups tend to get left behind. For our communities to thrive in the future, we need diverse networks of homegrown leaders who love their home and are committed to building vibrant communities where everyone thrives.

It is precisely this kind of diverse, committed leadership network that Act Six is producing.  In our second decade of Act Six, with 335 alumni, we are beginning to see the fruits of this fabric of leadership as alumni grow in their responsibility and deepen their connections in the community.

The Model


Locally recruit and select diverse, multicultural cadres of a region’s most promising urban and community student leaders.


Intensively train these groups of students in the year prior to college, equipping them to support each other, succeed academically and grow as service-minded leaders and agents of transformation.


Send the teams together to select faith- and social justice-based colleges, providing full-tuition, full-need scholarships.


Provide strong campus support, ongoing leadership development and vocational connections to inspire scholars to serve their home communities.

The Results

National data show that less than a third of all students from low-income families who start college ever graduate.  The data are equally discouraging for students whose parents didn’t attend college and those from most underrepresented ethnic groups.

But the statistics for Act Six scholars tell a much different story:  Since 2002, Act Six has selected and trained 814 scholars from seven cities in 121 cadres for 16 partner colleges.  They represent six continents of the world, speak  70  native languages, and represent the very best emerging urban and community leaders that these communities have to offer.   While 90% of scholars come from low-income households or are the first in their family to go to college, they are defying the odds with graduation rates of 85%.

And along the way, Act Six scholars and alumni are creating a legacy of distinguished leadership, service and academic achievement on campus and in the community:

  • 12 have served as student body presidents for their college
  • two have been named Fulbright scholars by the US State Department
  • two have earned national championships in athletics
  • dozens have served in AmeriCorps, Teach For America, or Peace Corps
  • scores have traveled and studied around the world
  • nearly two-thirds have returned to live and serve in their home communities

Read more about the impact of Act Six and meet the scholars themselves.



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The Act Six network currently consists of six local community affiliates and 16 partner colleges across two regions serving 814 scholars in 121 cadres from nine cities.  At each of the six program sites, Act Six operates as a locally-owned initiative of the Act Six affiliate, supported by the Act Six Central Office at Degrees of Change.