The Ontario-Montclair Promise Scholars Initiative proves that money is not necessary to start a Promise program.
Founded as a three-school pilot program in 1999, it was designed to help the district’s students — largely low-income and largely Hispanic — be successful in a global society by increasing high school completion and college going rates. The city has been plagued by hopelessness, but the program forged ahead, working with students and families in fifth grade to ensure awareness, aspiration and success.
For 10 years the program tracked those students — who had benefitted from existing and modified programs already in place. When a new superintendent came aboard and looked at the data, in the name of social justice, the program was expanded to every district school.
There had been a focus on PELL Grants for those eligible and children meeting the prerequisites of the program were guaranteed admission to nearby Chaffey College upon graduation, but the Class of 2016 is the first to have additional need-based tuition assistance and options at other local colleges and universities. Executive Director Leslie Sorensen expects about 700 students to enroll.
The district’s partnership includes the Inland Empire United Way, the City of Ontario, its Chamber of Commerce and an array of businesses, non-profits and citizens. And all 2,200 fifth graders have a guaranteed place in college and years of preparation ahead to fulfill the dream.
“We’re making the promise to our Ontario youth that a college education is indeed in their future,” said Ontario Mayor Paul Leon. “We believe this program can positively impact our future resident’s quality of life and the quality of our future work force.”