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Lipscomb University's comprehensive plan to return to campus.

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Lipscomb University Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 update and response.

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Pionero Scholars Program

Creating a local pipeline of teacher candidates who plan to teach in Davidson county communities.

The Pionero Scholars Program is a scholarship and outreach program at Lipscomb that seeks to increase the number of local students who enroll at Lipscomb, with the long-term goal of creating a local pipeline of students returning to teach in their home communities.

Recruiting teachers in general must become a focus for Colleges of Education – enrollment in teacher preparation programs is at its lowest point in 45 years. (1) Each year Metro Nashville begins the school year with over 100 empty classrooms as there is a mismatch between teachers graduating with degrees and the needs of the district. Beyond that, the diversity of our teaching population is an important topic nationwide – low-income students, first generation students, students of color, male students, and English Language Learners need role models in their schools who understand where they come from and the challenges they are overcoming.

In Metro Nashville Public Schools, only 20% of teachers in 2015-2016 were male. (2) In terms of racial & ethnic diversity nationwide, while the numbers have steadily improved, nationwide teachers of color only make up 17% of the workforce. Meanwhile, the population of students of color is growing even faster – minority students now account for more than half of all public school students. (2) Also, almost one in four (12 million) schoolchildren ages 5 to 17 speak a language other than English at home, according to an analysis of census figures. (3) In Nashville, we are home to a vibrant and rapidly growing immigrant and refugee population, with sizeable communities of Kurdish, Egyptian, Mexican, Central American, Somali, Sudanese, Burmese, Thai, Laotian, and other nationalities from around the world. There are over 24,000 English Language Learners in Metro Nashville Public Schools, and the most diverse high school in the state of Tennessee, Overton High School, boasts over 60 languages spoken. (4)

Research has demonstrated that as a teacher population in a school becomes more diverse,  all students in the school show positive gains in test scores, attention, retention, and college persistence. (Pitts, 2007). We believe that local students who grew up in Nashville have a unique perspective on working in communities with so much religious, ethnic, nationality, income, and linguistic diversity. We believe that local students, regardless of their own background, will ready to hit the ground running as teachers, confident in the context and strengths of their community.


  1. NEA Today March 2016 
  2. IncluCivics Report by Metro Nashville Human Relations Commission
  3. Shanker Institute Report 
  4. The Nashville Scene

Meet Our Scholars

Pionero Scholars Alumni

Pionero Scholarship


About the Scholarship

Each year, the Pionero Scholars Program awards three to six students an academic merit renewable scholarships of up to $10,000 per student. In order to be considered, students must meet the listed qualifications and complete the application and interview process listed here on our website.

During their undergraduate career, Pionero students participate in fun group activities, receive academic support, and are provided with an on-campus upperclassmen mentor as well as a faculty mentor. As upperclassmen, Pionero students receive a mentor that is a current or former classroom teacher to help them navigate Education specific courses and decisions.

To maintain the scholarship, Pionero students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and meet program requirements such as attendance in group meetings, support with recruitment events with the Pionero Program, and complete 5 service hours per semester.

Applicant Qualifications

Students must:

  • Be a graduate of a public high school in Nashville/ Davidson County
  • Have an interest in being a future teacher
  • Be a US citizen, permanent resident, DACAmented, or other status with work authorization
  • For high school seniors:
    • Must be admitted to Lipscomb University
    • Score a minimum of a 21 on the ACT
  • For Lipscomb students or transfers:

Preference will be given to: 

  • students with a socio-economic disadvantage, taking into consideration such factors as the net income and net worth of the student’s parents or guardian(s); the occupation(s) of the student’s parents or guardian(s); the structure of the student’s family, the academic quality of the secondary school from which the student graduated, and the quality and average income level of the neighborhood in which the student’s family lives;
  • students who are among the first generation in their family to attend college; and
  • students who are under-represented in the Lipscomb student body population.

Application Cycle

There is a separate application for Pionero outside of your admission to Lipscomb as an incoming freshman or a transfer student. Pionero Scholarship recipients are chosen each spring for the following fall semester. The scholarship dates are updated on December 1 of each year.

  • Applications are due each January. 
  • The application requires submission of: a completed applicant bio page (found on our website), and a 500-1,000 word essay on why you want to be a teacher.
  • Applicants are not required to have met the 21 on the ACT requirement at the time of application. Applicants without the 21 are required to participate in ACT prep coursework and take the ACT residual on campus over their Spring Break in March/April.
  • Applicants participate in an Interview Day on campus (two 15 min interviews back to back as well as other information and a dinner for families) in February or March.
  • Announcement Day is usually in late March or early April and on this day candidates get a call or an in-person visit about their status.
    • Students on the waitlist receive a personal call as they move off the waitlist.
    • Recipients have until May 1st to notify the Pionero program of their intention to accept or decline the scholarship.
    • Pionero students are asked to attend the July Advance over the summer, and to plan to spend the week around Advance at a Pionero Boot Camp.
    • Students offered conditional admission (if have not yet scored a 21+ on the ACT), will be expected to continue studying for the ACT and retake the residual before the final opportunity in mid-August.

Current Cycle

The application process for the Pionero Scholarship for Fall 2021 admission is now open! It will close on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021.

Special Events

For students interested in the Pionero scholarship, there will be a Pionero Preview Day event on Saturday, January 23rd from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Zoom (video conferencing) to learn more about how to become a teacher, what the Education major looks like, and to meet current Pioneros and current teachers. There will be a Pionero Prep Day on Saturday, February 6th from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Zoom to get interview tips and participate in mock interviews. Please RSVP to Ms. Delgado in order to receive the links to the Zoom video sessions.

Application Process

The application for the Pionero scholarship is DUE at Wednesday, February 3rd at midnight. For eligibility questions, please check the "About" section of this web page or email the Scholarship Director, Ms. Laura Delgado at

The application components for the 2021 Pionero scholarship include:

  • Part 1: Email with your intent to apply. List the high school you attended and your admission status at Lipscomb University.
  • Part 2: Completed applicant bio. (See "Application Requirements" below.) 
  • Part 3: Completed 500-1,000 word essay. (See "Application Requirements" below.)
  • Part 4: Sign up for an interview time slot by completing the online form at (or this link).
  • Part 5: To be admitted to the Education major at a Tennessee university, candidates must either have a 21 composite ACT score (no super scoring), or pass the CORE Praxis exams. This year it has been difficult for many students to take the ACT. If you were not able to take the ACT and applied to Lipscomb this year as test optional or you did not score a 21 composite on the ACT (no super scoring), then we ask that you take one of the three CORE exams (Reading, Writing, or Math) by Tuesday, February 9th. The Pionero Scholars Program will cover the cost for you (please connect with Ms. Delgado for help registering and paying for the exam). This test is required for Education majors at all universities in Tennessee.

All components should be either (a) emailed to or (b) uploaded to the Pionero website. (See the “Upload Application” button, below.)

Please note: In order to be considered for the scholarship, applicants must be admitted to Lipscomb University by late February when the selection committee meets. Applicants who have not been admitted to the university will be automatically disqualified.

For application questions or concerns, please contact the Scholarship Director, Ms. Laura Delgado, by e-mail to or by phone at (615) 966-5274.

Interview Day

All applicants are required to participate in Interview Day, on February 18th between 3:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  Each applicant will complete four 10 to 15 minute interviews with the selection committee. This year, interviews may be hosted virtually – a decision will be made in early February based on the most recent COVID-19 policies along with student and interviewer preferences.

Selection Day

Selections will be announced on Friday, March 5th. All candidates will receive a visit to their school from the Scholarship Director or a phone call updating them about their status on this day.

Application Requirements

In order to be considered, each student must submit the following items to the Pionero Scholars Program, either by using the links at the bottom of this page, or emailing them to

  • Complete our bio form and attach a photo of yourself.
  • Compose a brief essay (between 500 - 1,000 words, single spaced, 12 point font) that thoughtfully considers one of the questions below. Our goal is to understand you and your story, and the path that has led you to teaching.
    • What made you want to become a teacher?
    • Why does education matter for your family and your community?

Upload Application