Ready To Make A Promise?

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The Richmond Promise — a scholarship program for students in Richmond, Calif. — is looking for its founding executive director.

From the Richmond Standard:

The leadership role packs an annual salary range of $90,000 to $150,000. The person hired will lead an effort to ensure every college-going high school senior who lives in Richmond gets a $1,500 annual boost to attend college for up to four years, as mandated by council. The person must also launch fundraising efforts in order to sustain and grow the program. At $1,500 annually per student, the program will last about eight years on the initial $35 million grant, city staff says.

Anyone interested should click here for details. Priority applications will be submitted by Dec. 18.

The Coolest Village Yet To Be

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By Brett Hoover

So, I thought I was onto something new. Two years ago a manufacturer that had been doing business in a six-story building in my neighborhood for 100 years announced it was moving out of the city to a neighboring town where it could have a modernized single-floor operation.

cop-cowlesWhile I was reading the story I was already daydreaming about that facility becoming “Promise Village,” a vibrant place where our young professionals could return to their hometown and live in lower-than-market studio apartments, supported by one another while launching their careers and giving back to their city.

As it turned out, I wasn’t discovering fire. Yet I was happy to see that other places found it to be a good idea.

The manufacturer was almost completely moved out when my alderman led a community tour of the massive plant in June. This fall it was purchased by a developer, who held a neighborhood meeting about his acquisition earlier this week. When it became clear that the facility was going to become housing units, some folks complained about traffic and others spoke out against affordable housing.

I decided to speak up about my idea for the facility. One of the reporters at the meeting offered that I “urged [my] neighbors to think more broadly about the issue of affordable housing.” I told them that we live in a city that has high rent and little vacancy. Our Promise scholars who graduate from college — and we have more than 500 presently enrolled — want to return to the city, but find themselves priced out of launching their career on their own in their hometown, where they’d be able to immediately influence younger members of their families. I told the developer that I’d love to see a place for them, even if the apartments were small studios.

Smaller apartments with more common space is trend. In fact, a place called Commonspace is doing just that in downtown Syracuse. Co-founder John Talarico told CityLab, “If your normal rent is $1,500, we’re coming in way under that ($700 to $900). You can spend that money elsewhere, living, not just sustaining.”

cop-bakery-squareThe notion of creating affordable housing in the name of education is not new either. The Newark Teachers’ Village in New Jersey is a national model to attract and retain teachers. Just recently, the City of San Francisco announced efforts to do the same in the Bay Area, where teacher retention is a significant problem. Even rural Hertford County in North Carolina is making space for teachers.

Companies like Google and LinkedIn have also decided that entering the real estate game is simply good for business. Unaffordable housing has a way of contributing to longer commutes and traffic congestion that is bad for the environment. And business productivity suffers.

Googlers in Pittsburgh have taken up residence in the Bakery Square neighborhood and helped change the environment. In a rather snarky portrayal in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last December, reporters Mackenzie Carpenter and Deborah M. Todd wrote this:

“Google definitely ups the coolness factor,” said Ryan Teeder, 25, who was sipping a craft beer at one of Social’s outdoor tables on a warm August evening. He had actually come to pick up his 14-year-old brother Ross, who had spent the afternoon at TechShop. “I live in White Oak, but when I come here, I feel like I’m in Brooklyn or some other really cool place where all the action is.”

Perhaps against the wishes of some of my neighbors, I want my neighborhood to be that really cool place where all the action is.


Brett Hoover — who formerly served as the Associate Director of the Ivy League — is a co-founder of Cities of Promise and serves as a digital strategist and Education Pioneers fellow at New Haven Promise.

UConn Commits To New Haven Promise Scholars

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Yale University President Peter Salovey, New Haven Mayor Toni N. Harp, University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst, New Haven Promise Executive Director Patricia Melton, New Haven Schools Superintendent Garth Harries.

Full Release (PDF) | Photo Gallery

Officials at the University of Connecticut are convinced. So convinced that school administrators want more than the 132 New Haven Promise scholars that are on campus. Even to the point that UConn has put money on the table — $5,000 per scholar per year — to help ensure that college is affordable and accessible to them.

nhp-herbst-1UConn President Susan Herbst announced Tuesday that UConn is committing $5,000 in scholarship money to each New Haven Promise scholar attending UConn, starting in fall 2016. It will supplement the scholarship that New Haven Promise provides to those who remain continuously enrolled in city public and charter schools, maintain satisfactory grades, contribute service to the city, and enroll in UConn following their graduation.

Herbst announced the additional financial commitment Tuesday at New Haven’s Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School. She was joined by Yale President Peter Salovey, who is New Haven Promise’s board chair; Mayor Toni N. Harp; Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries; and many other supporters of the program.

Yale funds New Haven Promise’s scholarships, while the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven provides administrative support and Promise’s Partnership program is funded by Yale-New Haven Hospital, Wells Fargo and others.

nhp-cameras“It is wonderful to see our investment in New Haven Promise embraced and augmented by a fellow university that, like Yale, is deeply committed to serving its home state,” Salovey said of UConn’s commitment. “I am also delighted that so many students from New Haven earn their degrees from the University of Connecticut and then return here to live, work, and contribute their perspectives to our community.”

Since 2010, nearly 1,000 New Haven public school graduates have qualified for the Promise program, including 132 currently attending UConn.

Fourteen Promise Scholars graduated from the University of Connecticut last spring and more than 20 are expected to join them in 2016. In addition, 22 UConn students gained real-world experience in a paid summer internship through the New Haven Promise-Yale  Community Hiring Initiative program last summer.

The additional $5,000 that UConn is committing for enrolled students will be awarded on top of the Promise benefit, and can be used for whatever costs remain – uncovered tuition, room and board, fees, books and other related education expenses while at UConn.

“This generous financial commitment to New Haven students who choose to attend the state’s flagship university will make college even more accessible to our city students,” said Patricia Melton, executive director of New Haven Promise.

“As legislators discuss ways to make college affordable for families, UConn and our funders — Yale University, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and Yale-New Haven Health — are doing it,” she said. “Between this unique commitment, Promise dollars and federal aid, our future UConn scholars will have the majority of their total cost of attendance covered.”

New Haven Promise Scholars reflect the student body in New Haven’s schools, with large populations of students of color, first-generation students and those from households with incomes of less than $60,000. Superintendent Harries called the Commitment “not only a wonderful opportunity, but also a wonderful challenge” to supply the state’s flagship school with more New Haven student leaders.

nhp-mayor“This commitment from the University of Connecticut is a powerful testimony about the success of the New Haven students at the school,” Mayor Harp said. “UConn has its greatest presence ever in New Haven and I would expect to see an invigorated alumni chapter making new commitments to the city and both current and future Huskies.”

As part of the new commitment, the UConn Foundation has established a fund directly to support the New Haven Promise partnership, Herbst said. That means donors can specifically designate Promise program students to benefit from their generosity.

“The groundwork for this partnership was laid by the remarkable successes of New Haven students at UConn,” Herbst said. “None of this would be possible without the track record they established, so they really deserve the lion’s share of our gratitude.”

Do You Believe You Can Fly?

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By Patricia Melton

Belief. The American Council on Education struggled to explain their recent findings that — in spite of rising high school graduation rates and increased access to college grants, both federal and institutional — low-income students enrolling in college took a significant dive in just five years following the recession.

The report’s top explanation was indeed, belief. “The rapid price increases in recent years, especially in the public college sector, may have led many students — particularly low-income students — to think that college is out of reach financially,” it said.

There are other possibilities. Students from the economic “bottom-fifth” might believe that the value of college has declined. They may think they might not finish or recognized that the for-profit schools that have been feasting on the Pell-eligible are largely scams. The Council even suggests that their own findings — a double-digit enrollment drop from 56 percent to 46 percent — may be wrong.

But let’s zone in on a primary belief. What happens if students and families were aware that college was in reach for everyone in their city? What if they had assistance in navigating federal forms and financial incentives for strong performance in high school?

Well, even without a national study, I’d be willing to wager that the Cities of Promise have bucked this trend. What I can do is give figures from New Haven, Conn., home of the New Haven Promise.

For the last four years New Haven Promise has been tracking the household incomes of the families of those scholars who’ve accepted the scholarship. Since that benchmark Class of 2012, the number of scholars from household with incomes of at least $30,000 have risen by more than 30 percent. Those from households with less than $30,000 of income? Try a rise of 63 percent! From 54 in 2012 to 88 in 2015.

Now while those students are a bit more likely to discontinue their studies, those who persist have a higher mean grade-point average than their wealthier counterparts.

Showing a path and instilling a belief? Maybe it isn’t the explanation, but it sure won’t hurt!


Patricia Melton is the Executive Director of New Haven Promise