More than three dozen Promise programs from across the country — and other explorers hoping to join the Cities of Promise — will descend upon ground zero for the movement next week.
That’s because PromiseNet 2015 is returning to Kalamazoo, Mich., beginning Tuesday and concluding Thursday. In addition to speeches, panels and networking sessions, there will also be a gala celebration of the 10th Anniversary of The Kalamazoo Promise on Wednesday night at the Radisson Hotel downtown. (Cities of Promise is even hosting a swag swap on Tuesday night)
Our journey from New Haven, Conn., to PromiseNet will begin on Monday, which is the 5th Anniversary of the announcement of the establishment of the New Haven Promise. The picture of then-Yale President Rick Levin and then-New Haven Mayor John DeStefano was taken at that event on Nov. 9, 2010.
This movement is young, yet it is the most exciting thing happening in higher education right now. It is diverse as communities are finding new forms of funding and programming that are specific to their resources, needs and concerns.
As I’ve written before, a committed community does not need much to start a program. Taking advantage of existing resources and highlighting opportunities for scholars and families can lead to much more. We are seeing that in California with the Ontario-Montclair Promise Scholars program, which for a decade produced a college-going culture without a funder.
One of the reason the Promise movement is the most exciting thing in higher education is because it is supremely innovative. We are seeing combinations of business leaders, government officials, philanthropists and education administrators pulling together to solve problems that haven’t been resolved alone.
So our trip to Kalamazoo is a salute to all that has been accomplished and a celebration of what is yet to come.
PromiseNet is heading back to Kalamazoo, Mich., and registration for the event — which will take place Nov. 10-12, 2015 — is now open.
The early registration rate is $275 (though there is $50 per person reduction for those with groups of at least three). Those rates go up $25 per person starting Oct. 12. There is also a single-day rate of $175 for Nov. 11, which includes all-day programming followed by the Kalamazoo Promise 10th Anniversary Gala.
The kickoff event for Promise programs will be a luncheon featuring remarks from Wes Moore, a Rhodes Scholar and decorated Army combat veteran who has launched BridgeEdU. That initiative — which focuses on college completion and career placement — looks to reinvent the freshman year of college by providing a “softer on-ramp” to higher education. Moore has been well covered, including features on Meet the Press, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The View, MSNBC, NPR, USA Today and People Magazine. He also also hosts Beyond Belief on the Oprah Winfrey Network and serves as the executive producer and host of Coming Back with Wes Moore on PBS.
The breakout sessions will cover considerable ground, including research findings on the impact of selected Promise programs, discussion on how to begin with fundraising and managing a Promise program and a focus on students beyond enrollment and graduation from college. Click here for the full agenda.
This will be the seventh PromiseNet conference. Last year’s event in New Haven, Conn. — the first one held on the East Coast — attracted more than 100 organizations, including a dozen from California. The video above was produced by New Haven Promise and you can click here for a series of images from PromiseNet 2014.
In early November the nation’s Promise programs will convene in Kalamazoo, Mich., for PromiseNet 2015 and among the events will be a 10th anniversary celebration gala of the ground-breaking Kalamazoo Promise.
But early November will also be the 50th anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which ushered in a national promise in the form of the forerunner to what would become known as the Pell Grant. That program — named for the late Claiborne Pell, a U.S. Senator from Rhode Island — has been a major factor in the ability of students from lower-income households to attend and graduate from college.
Yet for the last 20 years the most at-risk haven’t been eligible to tap into the funds. The Violent Crimes Control and Law Enforcement Act passed by Congress in 1994 wiped out Pell Grants for the incarcerated. The early 1990s saw new spikes in violent crime in the U.S. and the comprehensive act, signed into law by Bill Clinton, was a “get-tough-on-crime” reaction.
Vivian Nixon and Glenn Martin recently co-authored a plea for the Promise of Pell in our prison system. Published on the website of the Department of Education, Nixon and Martin wrote, “This research clearly demonstrates that access to higher education is actually a boon for public safety; it drives down recidivism rates, improves the lives of incarcerated students and returning citizens, and improves the lives of their families and communities.”
The anonymous donors who’ve thus far funneled $66 million to the recipients of the Kalamazoo Promise had not made a public statement in the 10 years of the program… until now.
In a 10th anniversary event held at Bronson Park in Kalamazoo, Dr. Janice Brown — the only person to admit that she knows the funders — read a statement from them:
To the Kalamazoo Promise community:
On the 10th anniversary of The Kalamazoo Promise, it is our pleasure and privilege to send a message of thanks and commitment to you today.
The annual report of The Kalamazoo Promise is, in reality, a success and a challenge report. To all of us, the report identifies and celebrates the substantial growth in college admissions as well as commencement rates for The Kalamazoo Promise scholars. It’s interesting and validating to know that the initial class at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker School of Medicine includes a Kalamazoo Promise student.
The report also identifies challenges that remain to ensure that access to post-secondary education results in even greater graduation rates among those Kalamazoo Promise scholars who apply for and are admitted to post-secondary education. The Kalamazoo Promise not only created an opportunity for students but also a challenge and therefore an opportunity for our community.
As donors, we are pleased and grateful for all in our community who have shared and labored in the opportunity to increase the preparedness of students for post-secondary education. The investment we have made in students has paid off in positively changed lives. Graduates are modeling scholarship, discipline and sacrifice for future generations of Promise scholars.
As donors, we are humbled and proud to commit that we will be with you for generations to come. Let me repeat that: We will be with you for generations to come. With grateful hearts, we offer our very best regards as we celebrate this historic anniversary. Thank you.