Stateside: Kalamazoo's Promise of lifelong learning
Graduate from public high school in Kalamazoo and go to college for free.
It’s a rare offer- one that strives to show students that college is something crucial and attainable.
In a recent New York Times feature, Ted C. Fishman examined the Kalamazoo Promise and its effect on both the city and the state of Michigan.
Seven years ago, anonymous donors started The Promise, hoping to encourage more Kalamazoo students to attend college.
During his time writing the piece, Fishman was personally impacted by the stories of the students with whom he spoke.
“I was deeply moved by the whole thing. I was moved by the act of philanthropy that said the kids in Kalamazoo are loved. I was moved by how the Promise made the city reexamine what it can do for itself,” said Fishman.
Kalamazoo set for itself the goal of urging more kids toward graduation, even though this was not something required by the Promise.
But for some Kalamazoo families, college is not something ever brought up in conversation.
“One out of three children in the school system is officially poor. And college simply had not been on the radar for those families,” said Fishman.
Still, The Promise shifted the way many students view their future.
What was once seen as too costly, now has become a possibility.
Fishman said The Promise now allows for students to graduate within ten years. The longer time frame allows the students to attend to unexpected setbacks without losing their funding.
He noted also that 12 similar programs exist elsewhere in America.
Fishman found the Promise nourishes a unique sense of community.
“It is this community aspect of it. I’m very interested in the economic and social value of a community. What the Promise does is take a giant piece of private philanthropy and uses it as a spur for public action,” said Fishman.
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