Muskegon Area Promise hits $1 million milestone

Recipients of the Muskegon Area Promise listen during a news conference Jan. 15, 2016.

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) – The Muskegon Area Promise has hit a milestone.

Officials held a news conference Friday to announce they surpassed the $1 million mark to fund the new scholarship program.

The Promise scholarship pays for two years of college. It was kick-started back in October when four local business leaders contributed a total of $400,000 to the program.

“This means that our students have an opportunity to go to college. Some of our students had not had this opportunity before because there were a lot of roadblocks, but the funding will no longer be a barrier,” said Alena Zachery-Ross, the Superintendent of the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy.

The program has already benefited 14 students who are enrolled at Baker College of Muskegon and Muskegon Community College.

Many students who attended the conference said they are grateful to be free from the stress of paying for college.

“I was thinking ‘Yes! I have a scholarship. I’ll be able to do this and I can pay off my classes and get my books and there I go.’  I got it and I said ‘Woo, that’s one thing out the window,” said Breeana Mcglothin, who received the scholarship.

“I was always kind of worried, oh college is expensive, I don’t want to go into like a lot of debt. Once I found out I was getting free college, I was like, ‘Wow, this is great,” said Sam Hansen, who has another year and a half at Muskegon Community College.

Some students said the Promise scholarship gives them an opportunity to fulfill their dreams.

“It means a lot. I don’t have to worry about my mom or dad trying to get the money. I also have a twin sister that’s also in college with me so it’s kind of hard. I want to become a social worker and to help kids a lot,” said Latyria Johnson.

“Going into counseling, psychology, that’s not, definitely not a cheap program. Knowing that having my associate degree is all wrapped up [and] I’m going to be finished without having any student loans is huge,” said Elizabeth Kurdziel, who plans to complete her two-year degree by fall.

The program is about more than helping students; it’s also revitalizing the community.

“[In] Muskegon Heights, there’s hope right now. There’s a new mayor. There’s a new chief. There’s the new stem labs at the school,” said Zachery-Ross.

“It’s in many ways an economic development plan as well, and we know that the prosperity of a community is based on its talent,” said John Severson, the Muskegon ISD Superintendent.

Supporters say they’re focused on helping the program flourish and establish a different image for the area.

“We believe that with that support, we will transform Muskegon County to be one of the best areas to live and raise a family,” said Severson.

For the program, students have to live in the Muskegon area, graduate from Muskegon, Muskegon Heights or Holton High School and have a 3.5 GPA. In 2017, the program will extend to all high school graduates in the county of Muskegon.

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