Lansing Promise Scholarship Program is Up and Running
Across Greater Lansing and many other cities in Michigan, hundreds of yellow school buses emblazoned with the words “Dean Transportation” are a familiar sight.
And the man behind the company who delivers our children safe and sound to and from school every day, owner Kellie Dean, is just as visible when it comes to advocating for the education of our youth. It should come as no surprise that Dean is also the chairperson of the Lansing Promise Zone Authority board.
A former Lansing School District teacher, Dean is never far behind when there is a community need that involves kids and education. Thus, in 2009 when Gov. Jennifer Granholm established 10 Promise Zones as a component of her comprehensive plan to grow and diversify Michigan’s economy and create jobs, Dean was at the front of the line to lead the development of the Lansing Promise. Three years later, the program is up and running and scholarship applications are rolling in for the fall of 2012.
“The promise of a funded college education for Lansing School District high school graduates is a tremendous motivator,” says Dean. “Our kids are the future, the leaders of tomorrow and it is up to us to ensure they have access to a great education regardless of their financial means.”
The research supports the need. According to former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, “Ninety percent of the fastest growing jobs require postsecondary education or training, yet we’re not equipping enough of our citizens, especially people of color, to seize these opportunities.” Lansing was selected as a Promise Zone because the percentage of children under the age 18 living below the federal poverty level is greater than the state average. The Promise Zone goals are to expand educational opportunities for young people and transform communities through economic development.
Private donations support the first two years of the Lansing Promise with public support coming from a local tax capture in the growth in state education portion of property tax beginning in year three. These combined funds support the Lansing Promise into perpetuity. In-kind support comes from the Lansing School District (LSD), Lansing Community College (LCC), Michigan State University (MSU) and others.
Kellie Dean isn’t the only one that believes a college education matters. Dozens of community leaders have been working collaboratively for the last three years to bring the Lansing Promise to where it is today. The program is governed by an 11-member volunteer Promise Zone Authority board. A separate fundraising foundation board is currently working to help raise the five million dollars needed to fund the program into perpetuity.
The Lansing Promise will pay for tuition and mandatory fees at LCC equivalent to an associate’s degree, or the equivalent amount of money it would cost at LCC to attend MSU. This scholarship is available for all students who live within and graduate from any high school located within the LSD boundaries. The scholarship amount is dependent on a) other grants and scholarships a student receives, and b) the student’s length of consecutive attendance at a public or non-public school within the LSD boundaries. All other grants and scholarships will be used before Lansing Promise dollars, as this is a last-dollar scholarship.
The benefits to students from the Lansing Promise include making college possible for all, sharpening focus on academic achievement, creating hope and inspiring students to complete high school and go to college, and increasing students’ future job opportunities and income potential. The benefits to the community include increasing the number of high school and college graduates, building the community’s educational identity, helping to retain and attract jobs, helping raise personal income that supports local businesses, and strengthening our core urban area.
Lansing Promise has a multi-year fundraising plan that requires a minimum of $800,000 in 2012 to fulfill the scholarship commitment to our aspiring students this fall. A professional fundraising and positioning study conducted by Mark R. Fisher & Associates last June demonstrated that the Lansing community will support this important program.
The national recession has left Michigan at the low end of national rankings in employment, per capita income and the proportion of adults with a four-year degree. The knowledge-based economy is the path to prosperity for Lansing and the rest of our state. The most fundamental challenge in turning around our economy is improving college attainment. A strong talent pool and vibrant core urban area will attract and retain good-paying jobs.
If you would like to pledge your financial support to the Lansing Promise, visit www.lansingpromise.org, or call 517-483-9655.
Pam Jodway is working with the Lansing Promise Zone Authority Board on marketing and communication efforts for Lansing Promise.
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