Roz Wiggins of the Yale School of Management offered the title “The Big Bang” for a segment about the Kalamazoo Promise in her Cities of Promise town hall case study last November at PromiseNet.
“It wasn’t the first place-based scholarship, but Kalamazoo was the first program of its kind that made a citywide commitment and it caught the country’s attention,” she wrote.
That “Big Bang” occurred at a city board of education meeting on Nov. 10, 2005, and now folks in Kalamazoo have rolled out the activities in a yearlong celebration of its 10th anniversary. The Kalamazoo Promise — which expects to enroll about new 500 recipients each fall — has awarded more than $60 million in anonymously-funded scholarships, leading to more than 1,000 degrees.
“We may never know those donors’ names, but we know how they helped bring this community together and how you’ve embraced their Promise not just as a gift to be appreciated, but a responsibility to be fulfilled,” President Barack Obama told the 2010 graduating class of Kalamazoo Central High. “We know how they have helped inspire an entire generation of young people here in Kalamazoo to imagine a different future for themselves.”
Under the theme “The Promise We Keep,” the events leading up to a formal anniversary include a series of community conversations focused on the barriers which have kept Promise-eligible folks from utilizing the award, a downtown community celebration in August and a return of PromiseNet, the national conference which was established in Kalamazoo.
“We knew that The Promise was a gift that would change lives,” Von Washington Jr., executive director of Kalamazoo Promise community relations, told Alex Mitchell of the Kalamazoo Gazette. “What we’ve learned over the past decade is that it’s a gift that can transform a community, but only to the extent that the community steps forward to make sure The Promise is kept for everyone.”