KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Loy Norrix High School seniors will graduate Wednesday knowing the work they put in starting as kindergarteners will see them through the next phase of their lives, thanks to the Kalamazoo Promise.
The 2019 graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools mark a milestone for the Promise program: they’re the first group of students who went from kindergarten through to high school with the promise of the Promise present every step of the way.
The Kalamazoo Promise has been changing lives of KPS graduates for 13 years. Since its inception in November 2005, the program has paid millions of dollars to thousands of students pursuing secondary education and other certifications.
The Kalamazoo Promise has a new slogan this year: “Your path, your promise.”
“We want students to know there are various paths they can take using these scholarship dollars. Really, the goal would be finishing with— whether it be a credential, a certification, associates degree, bachelor’s degree— finishing with little to no debt,” explained Von Washington Jr., executive director of community relations for the Kalamazoo Promise.
Loy Norrix High School senior Will Keller has attended KPS since he was a kindergartner. He will walk across the stage at Wings Event Center Wednesday knowing that his dreams of becoming a doctor can come true.
“I wouldn’t be able to do those things as easily as the Promise has made it for me, to just go and say, ‘You know what? My undergraduate degree has been paid for.’ I can pretty much go from there,” said Keller. “It’s kind of a big deal.”
Keller says he plans to attend Kalamazoo College in the fall. His fear of future financial insecurity has been dramatically reduced by a program paid for by an anonymous donor or donors.
“Its so incredibly generous to put that money away for us,” Keller said. “The effect that it’s had on the community in terms of just the people who are getting degrees that couldn’t, it’s unreal.”
Washington says the anonymity of the gift makes it more meaningful.
“I think there’s so much power in an opportunity, especially when you don’t know where it came from,” Washington said. “The Promise helps people understand that there are good people in the world that want to see others succeed.”
Ed Roth has two children benefitting from the Kalamazoo Promise. His youngest daughter will graduate from Kalamazoo Central High School Thursday.
Roth says he was in disbelief when the Promise program was announced.
“I remember they gave all the kindergarteners that year yellow t-shirts that said something like, ‘I’m a Promise scholar’ or something like that,” Roth said. “We knew right then and there that 13 years forward, that she would be in a position that nobody imagined — certainly not us.”
Roth said the Promise will have a lasting impact on his family.
“Not only will it affect my, our child’s life, but our lives, theirs, our grandchildren — should we have grandchildren— their lives, and you know force into the future,” Roth said. “So all I can say, if you could say anything, I guess you would just have to say over and over and over, thank you, and try to work hard to be worthy of the gift.”