Salute, Celebrate, Innovate


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)

nhp-5-yearsOur 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.

U.S. News Focuses On New Haven, Promise Movement


U.S. News & World Report is featuring the growth of the Promise movement — and we are happy to report the first national shout-out to Cities of Promise.

cop-us-news-logoThe introduction to the piece told the tale of a young woman from a Colorado charter school who found out that the difference between her financial aid package and the price tag at her college would be more than $10,000 — a figure her parents simply couldn’t cover.

But her high school — Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette, about a half-hour north of Denver — announced a pilot program intended to ensure that college remain an option for their graduates, regardless of individual financial situations.

While it is unusual for a high school to do this, more and more colleges are following the lead of the nation’s Cities of Promise, where student success has met with opportunity. New Haven Promise Executive Director Patricia Melton — a co-founder of Cities of Promise — was a source for the story.

She said that the Promise movement has led the way for innovative and entrepreneurial thinking. In this case, the grass-roots initiatives have “influenced bolder thinking at the policy level, which tends to take more time,” said Melton. New Haven Promise is currently funding nearly 500 students with more than 100 each at the state’s flagship institution, the University of Connecticut, and New Haven’s Southern Connecticut State University.

Author Allie Bidwell wrote:

Over the last decade, however, more outside foundations have been partnering with cities and school districts to get into the scholarship game, says Carrie Warick, director of partnerships and policy for the National College Access Network.

“I do see an expansion happening at the local level,” Warick says. “I think you will see it through these collective impact initiatives or other collaborations of local, business and nonprofit entities, where the school district will be very involved.”

One of the reasons school districts should be involved, perhaps even in supplying financial support, is that Promise programs help generate significant dollars for them. In New Haven, for example, public school enrollment decreased five straight years before Yale University (ranked third nationally by U.S. News), the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and Yale New Haven Hospital (ranked among the nation’s top 20 in six categories by U.S. News) established the Promise in 2010.

Since then city-wide public enrollment has jumped each year and is up 10 percent in total, which brings tens of millions of dollars annually to the district and infuses economic development — short term and long term — to the region.

One City’s Promise


One of the toughest things about a Promise program is that — in the end — the funders and the program administrators have little control on the return on the investment. Promise folks can identify, celebrate, monitor, support, counsel, engage, mentor and advocate for the scholars, but it is the business community that controls the hiring. And without certainty of that, it is hard to fully grasp the ability of a Promise program to assist in the “economic development” mission that most programs champion. Continue reading

White House Summit To Have Promise

New Haven Promise Executive Director Patricia Melton will be participating in the White House’s College Opportunity Day of Action on Thursday with more than 300 university presidents and other leaders launching new initiatives to open university doors to more students.

“I am thrilled to get this opportunity, through our amazing partnership with Yale University and on behalf of New Haven Promise, to participate in this White House Summit and to learn and share new initiatives that came from the first Day of Action back in January,” said Melton. “When President Salovey reported that Promise received a shout out at the first Summit, it created excitement in our Promise community. Now we close out the year with a first-hand visit.” Continue reading