More Fruit From The Seeds Of Promise


There is a Johnny Appleseed result that comes from the establishment of a Promise.

Kalamazoo Promise has hatched more than a dozen programs in the state of Michigan. Earlier this year Cities of Promise featured the Braddock Promise, which is an initiative following the lead of the nearby Pittsburgh Promise. New Haven Promise was the first of its kind in New England and Hartford will join the Promise Nation next year.

Now Illinois is a hot spot for Promise with Harper College announcing last week that its new Promise Scholarship will be serving public high school students in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago starting in 2019.

Chicago’s STAR Scholarship received a lot of attention in recent months when it was heavily cited during President Barack Obama’s push for America’s Promise, which would open up community college as an extension of high school.

But Illinois has also been home to two other community college Promise programs — one in Peoria and the other in Galesburg. And the Peoria Promise appears to be the model for the Harper College initiative.

A quick look at the perimeters show that the program will be rather inclusive as it relates to high school grades, but tight in its requirements for both attendance and community service. Once enrolled as a tuition-free scholar at Harper, there will still be service expectations as well as increasing minimums of grade-point success.

“A college credential has never been more crucial to success than in today’s 21st century economy,” Harper President Dr. Kenneth Ender said. “This program has the potential to positively impact not only deserving and motivated students, but the entire region by presenting employers with an educated and skilled workforce.”

The school’s board of trustees has set aside $5 million from the general fund and the school has also secured another $1 million in donations so far while Motorola Solutions Chairman & CEO Greg Brown and his wife, Anna, are chairing a campaign to raise $10 million to fund the program into the future.

Harper College — perhaps best known as the alma mater of Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin — is located in the Village of Palatine about 25 miles from downtown Chicago.

Crowdsourcing For His Kids


In so many ways, John Fetterman is an unlikely mayor of a struggling old steel town outside of Pittsburgh. First of all, he doesn’t necessarily strike one as mayoral. He stands 6-foot-8, weighs 350 pounds, sports a goatee and has a fondness for tattoos.

He isn’t even from hardscrabble Braddock, Pa., but was drawn there in 2001 to work for AmeriCorps after earning his master’s in public policy from Harvard (yeah, that Harvard). Fetterman’s first assignment was getting young people to earn their GEDs. He became the Mayor of Braddock in 2005 (by a single vote) and has held the position ever since.

He has the town’s ZIP code, 15104, tattooed on his left forearm and gets inked on the right arm with the date of every murder that takes place in Braddock. He is uniquely down for his town, which includes being arrested for protesting — and refusing to leave private property — when his town’s hospital was shuttered.

Fetterman is tied to his town’s 16-to-24 age group and all those who have passed through that age range since his arrival. And when the Pittsburgh Promise was announced, he made it a goal to bring that kind of commitment to his town, where population has been dropped for decades.

Fetterman founded Braddock Redux, which intends to mobilize teens and young adults to build a better Braddock and create opportunities. Now, under that umbrella organization, he has launched the Braddock Promise.

Money is the issue, it is always the issue. His solution? Crowdfunding. Fetterman’s goal is to raise $250,000 and, to date, the initiative has yet to raise its first one percent toward the goal, but the vision to change outcomes in Braddock isn’t a sprint. It’s more like a marathon.

“We want to give students an incentive to continue to go to school and get good grades,” Mr. Fetterman said. “It isn’t a hypothesis or theory, this is what works, and we want to bring it to Braddock. Why wouldn’t you want to be able to tap into the population that is coming out of Woodland Hills that doesn’t have the advantages of someone living in Squirrel Hill?”

A wise man wouldn’t bet against Braddock or Fetterman. In fact, he’d instead watch and learn.