Since 2002, Act Six has selected and trained 814 scholars from seven cities in 121 cadres for 17 partner colleges.  These Act Six scholars have the following characteristics:

  • 36% Hispanic, 25% African American, 12% multiracial, 11% Caucasian, 11% Asian, 2% Pacific Islander, 2% American Indian
  • 59% female
  • 70% first generation college students
  • 81% from low-income families
  • 90% first generation or low-income


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.  Among the 814 Act Six scholars who have enrolled in college:

  • 85% have graduated or are still enrolled
  • 80% of eligible scholars have graduated within six years
    (on average 20 points higher than overall grad rates at partner colleges)
  • two-thirds of graduates have returned to work or serve in their home communities
  • 44 graduates are pursuing or have earned graduate degrees

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


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 Act Six program has brought to Whitworth an extraordinary group of students who have enriched our campus through their leadership and service, even as we have taught and mentored them. The program requires big investments, but it also delivers big rewards. So, it would be irresponsible and morally unacceptable if we didn’t explore ways to expand Act Six to other schools.”

Bill Robinson, Ph.D.
Bill Robinson, Ph.D.President Emeritus
Whitworth University

“There is a constant push to expand your perspective, pushing you to places you didn’t think you could go. If you try, there is no end to what you can accomplish. Other people at home don’t ever think they can go to college. Act Six changed that from the beginning.”

Act Six ScholarWhitworth University

“My daughter teaches a college-bound course at her former high school. So she has taken what she learned from Act Six and from Whitworth, what Act Six instilled in her, and taken it out to 25 other kids. Giving back to the community what she’s learned has been very valuable to her and to those children who come into her class every day.”

Parent of Act Six AlumTacoma, WA

“Act Six has had an incredible effect on Whitworth University. The students at the college are exposed to new peers who have different backgrounds and cultures from their own, which causes all the students to feel the bumps as their cultures collide, which then causes the need for us all to learn how to effectively negotiate these bumps. The negotiation of cultural bumps is an absolutely necessary skill for people to learn before they enter the professional world of work and become members of and leaders in their various communities. If there are no rubs, we don’t feel this need, and we send students unprepared into the world after college. The Act Six program holds up a mirror for us to see where we all need to concentrate our efforts in order to be effective and positively productive in our lives.”

Dayna Coleman
Dayna ColemanAssistant Dean of Students
Whitworth University

“Act Six gave me a great support system that I know will continue to encourage me as I pursue my dreams. This support system enables me to venture outside of my comfort zone to accomplish things that weren’t on my radar before I became part of Act Six.”

Act Six Alum
Whitworth University

“In terms of how Act Six has impacted me personally, it’s just really enriched my experience at Whitworth. Being exposed to different backgrounds and belief systems and experiences may not necessarily change your values or your perspective, but it definitely enriches them.”

Non-Act Six StudentWhitworth University

“The Act Six students at Whitworth University have already made a considerable impact on our campus in many leadership roles in the residence halls, in student body organizations, and in other informal programs. If there is a program that is thought-provoking, multicultural, economically class-sensitive, or politically aware; it has probably been planned by one or more of the Act Six students. Perhaps more importantly, I have gotten to know many of them in and outside of class. In class they are among the most prepared students; more significantly, however, they contribute much to the classroom dynamics and to the discussions. They often bring new insights to the class. Outside of class, more informally, I have found them to be engaging, friendly, filled with a down-to-earth candor that all campuses need. They are great students and great people.”

Doug Sugano, Ph.D.
Doug Sugano, Ph.D.Professor of English
Whitworth University



In 2007, as the first Act Six scholars were graduating from Whitworth, Act Six commissioned Wilder Research to perform a formal external evaluation of the Act Six program at Whitworth.  The extensive, year-long project resulted in a 220-page report that identified multiple positive effects of the program in its first four years.  Key findings are presented in a two-page summary.

Highlights of Wilder Research Findings

Act Six scholars showed significantly higher outcomes compared to a comparison group in another college scholarship program in:

  • four-year graduation rate (82%)
  • reporting they received the support they needed to succeed on campus (95%)
  • participated in more leadership, vocational development and co-curricular activities
  • 86% of faculty agreed that the benefits of Act Six outweighed the costs
  • 69% of students and 89% of faculty believed that Act Six scholars made positive contribution to the campus through their leadership positions
  • over the first four years at Whitworth, enrollment of students of color remained level, but their impact on campus increased (in subsequent years, students of color in Whitworth’s freshmen class has increased from 9% to over 25%)
  • Act Six scholars represented 2% of student body, but 56% of students reported having a significant interaction with an Act Six scholar
    43% of students reported that they personally benefited from Act Six

In 2012, Act Six founder Tim Herron published a dissertation for his Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership and Policy at the University of Washington.  The study presents a comprehensive literature-based theory of change that proposes how and why the many interventions of Act Six work together to affect the desired outcomes of the program. It then evaluates the collective impact of these interventions on participants’ college persistence and graduation by comparing outcomes for Act Six participants with participants in a comparison program using propensity score matching techniques.  The study finds that Act Six participation has a significant effect on persistence and four-year graduation, with Act Six participants nearly 60% less likely to depart and six times more likely to graduate on time from their first college compared to participants in the matched comparison group, after controlling for 10 covariates believed to affect college persistence.


The research-based theory of change for the Act Six program that emerged from the dissertation has provided a theoretical framework that attempt to explain how the many interventions and supports of the Act Six program work together to accomplish the long-term goals of the program to create thriving individuals, campuses and communities.  Act Six staff utilize this theoretical framework to guide program improvement and innovation.

Theory of Change Illustration


Description of Interventions

A.  Program staff leverage school and community networks to promote the program and actively recruit applicants in target communities.

B.  Program staff provide application workshops for students and support school and community staff assisting students in the application process.

C.  Program and college staff implement a three-phase selection process utilizing community-based selection committees, an interactive assessment event, and a multi-day campus visit.

D.  Program staff coordinate a seven-month training program with regular weekly meetings, weekend retreats, an extended campus visit, and a week-long summer wilderness expedition.

E.  Program staff deliver curriculum via training sessions, readings, and homework assignments.

F.  Program staff facilitate personal story sharing sessions, community building activities, and social activities for cadres.

G.  College faculty provide writing instruction and grade writing assignments from training.

H.  College and program staff host campus visits that include resource orientations, and meetings with faculty, administration, and student leaders.

I.  Colleges provide scholarships, leveraging government and private grant funds to meet full demonstrated need with no loans and limited work study.

J.  Program and college staff publicize scholarship recipients and host public community and campus events recognizing and celebrating the leadership and achievement of students.

K.  College staff conduct a weekly first semester seminar for the cohort with emphasis on utilizing campus resources, studying leadership theories, and team building.

L.  Program and college staff facilitate students’ connections with the urban community.

M.  Program and college staff encourage regular cohort-initiated meetings after first semester, and continue to meet with each cohort once per semester and as needed in response to issues.

N.  College staff meet individually with each student each semester and as needed for individual coaching and support.

O.  Program and college staff monitor grades, social satisfaction, and campus involvement, meeting personally with struggling students and connecting to needed resources.

P.  College staff match students with individual faculty mentors who meet regularly with students to provide encouragement and to support students’ academic progress.

Q.  Program staff host network-wide convention every other summer featuring encouraging and challenging speakers and workshops, as well as a career and graduate school fair.

R.  Program and college staff build relationships with employers, connecting students with internships, employment, and service opportunities.

S.  Program and college staff support and advocate for students with faculty and administration as problems or suggestions for changes in programs and curriculum.

T.  Program and college staff provide encouragement for graduate school attendance, write recommendations to support students’ applications, and help identify financial aid.

U.  Program and college staff host senior capstone class on campus and in the community to guide students in reflecting on their college experience and prepare for graduation.

V.  Program staff create opportunities for a post-graduation year of service in the community.

W.  Program staff resource and support an alumni association, facilitating networking and hosting an annual alumni retreat.