- Sponsorship -

A more promising future begins for grads of city schools

School board approves GRPS Promise Zone Authority


If the experience of other school districts around the state is any indication, the city of Grand Rapids as well as its students will get a major lift from the Grand Rapids Public Schools Promise Zone.

So says a leader who helps establish Promise Zones around the state, as GRPS now begins the process to help fund the post-high school education of graduates from city schools. Leaders who have embraced the opportunities have seen their zones make “a huge difference” for students and communities alike, said Chuck Wilbur, executive director of the Michigan Promise Zones Association.

“I meet regularly with Promise leaders from across the state,” said Wilbur, who as a member of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration helped pass legislation 10 years ago to create state-authorized zones. “To a person they are totally convinced this is making a difference in their communities — both the community itself, its vitality and vibrancy, and making a difference for students.”

Close to 10,000 students have received scholarships from 10 state-authorized Promise Zones, Wilbur said. That’s in addition to the nearly 5,000 students who have qualified to receive them from The Kalamazoo Promise, a privately funded initiative established in 2005 to provide its graduates full-tuition scholarships to Michigan colleges and universities.

‘I’m pretty confident the community will answer the call to do what it feels is best for these kids.’ – GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal

GRPS graduates, as well as those from private and charter schools within the city of Grand Rapids, will also qualify for scholarships now that the Board of Education voted Monday night, Sept. 17 to establish a Promise Zone Authority. Zone authority members will be appointed by the district and state to establish a plan, including the scope of scholarship awards, and begin the hard work of raising community dollars to fund them.

Promises Fulfilled

Ten school districts or government entities have established Promise Zones under state law and are awarding college scholarships to their graduates. The privately funded Kalamazoo Promise was established in 2005 prior to legislation enabling other areas to apply. Click on each zone to learn more about what it provides for its students.

Source: Michigan Promise Zones Association

‘Change Generations to come’

Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal calls it an unprecedented citywide effort that will pay big dividends for all the city’s children, be they public, private or charter students.

“This is really just a game-changer for the city of Grand Rapids to come together under one umbrella around our children,” Neal said. “All of our school districts are working really hard, pre-K through high school, and now we can say we that we’re going to do this for kids beyond (K-12). It literally could change generations to come.”

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss hails the effort as a boon to the city’s continuing growth and vitality.

“This is an invaluable tool as we continuously work to improve the quality of life for the youngest of our residents today and well into the future,” Bliss said. “It also aligns with our commitment to being a great city for families.

“It is critically important that young people in our city have access to this transformational opportunity. I look forward to working with Grand Rapids Public Schools and our public and private partners to ensure we are a Promise Zone community.”

Learning from Others

Neal said she will look to all sectors of the community for potential board members, including private-school and business leaders. She also planned to begin meeting with leaders of Promise Zone school districts at a superintendents’ conference this week, “to learn from other communities what to do and what not to do.”

As for raising the needed funds for the scholarships, Neal said she is not worried about whether Grand Rapids will step up.

“I’m pretty confident the community will answer the call to do what it feels is best for these kids,” she said. “That has not been a problem in Grand Rapids. People believe in education. They also believe in coming together around children.”

In the third year the GRPS Promise Zone will be able to capture funds from the growth in its six-mill education property tax. With the city prospering and largely recovered from a major recession, that should provide the boost originally envisioned by state law, Wilbur said: “Grand Rapids is coming on board at a time when it all ought to work the way it was intended to work.”

CONNECT

On the way for future GR grads: the promise of college funding

- Sponsorship -
Charles Honey
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is editor-in-chief of SNN, and covers Rockford and Grand Rapids. As a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press/mLive from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years and its columnist for 20. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion News Service and Faith & Leadership magazine. Read Charles' full bio or email Charles.

LATEST ARTICLES

Longtime volunteer does whatever’s needed for school: ‘I love being here’

A 24-year parent and grandparent volunteer tends to student and family needs at Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy...

Lessons from a pandemic: ‘agile learners’ need ‘agile adults’

Reflecting on the end of fall semester and 2020, Superintendent Dedrick Martin sat down with School News Network to discuss how Caledonia adapted to school closures, virtual learning and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic...

It’s all about getting students back to classrooms, Supt. Shibler says of the vaccine

Superintendent Michael Shibler hopes the more people get vaccinated, the closer we are to the end of the pandemic...

Young constitutional scholars view current events, politics through historical lens

East Grand Rapids and East Kentwood high school We the People team members have qualified for the national competition, becoming well versed in civics and critical thinking along the way...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Longtime volunteer does whatever’s needed for school: ‘I love being here’

A 24-year parent and grandparent volunteer tends to student and family needs at Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy...

Back to classrooms for GRPS students — finally

After 44 weeks and 4 days, GRPS students were back in their classrooms Tuesday...

Online poetry, multimedia course encourages mental well-being for middle schoolers

A Grand Rapids nonprofit has made online writing and mental health materials available free of charge. At least one local middle-school teacher says the series is powerful and helps build community among classmates...
- Sponsorship -

HOW'S SCHOOL TODAY?

Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...

RADEMACHER & FRIENDS

Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS