KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo and the Wabash County YMCA announced a partnership to provide scholarships for students who participate in the Wabash County Promise program.
In a press conference at the Wabash County YMCA Monday (November 7), Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke pledged a $1,000 scholarship for each current eighth grader who successfully meets program requirements, and enrolls at IU Kokomo.
“We believe in you, and the program you’re going through,” she said. “We love instilling a college identity at a young age. If you come to IU Kokomo, we’re going to help in the challenge of paying for college with a scholarship.”
Phil Maurizi, vice president of Promise Indiana, called the partnership “an opportunity for the campus to become another champion in these children’s lives.”
“This scholarship is the first from a university saying that we believe in this process of starting to prepare for college at a young age, and that we want these kids to be dreaming about going to college,” he said. “It’s more realistic that they can go if there is money available.”
The Wabash County Promise program begins in kindergarten, with streamlining the process for parents to open a CollegeChoice 529 savings plan, and starting college visits during primary grades.
One of the first components of the program is having the child and his family open a college savings plan, with program donors giving the first $25. The children then are asked to find champions, or supporters, to help them raise $25 to deposit in the account, which the community then matches,
As the children progress through school, the program focus shifts to college preparation, providing resources to consider what classes to take in high school, and how to apply for programs such as 21st Century Scholars, which removes some of the burden of paying for college. Many potential first generation college students are from families who are not aware of these resources until after the application deadline.
In grades four through eight, the Wabash County Promise program includes classroom college readiness activities, and early distribution of scholarships, with the goal of establishing a mindset of going to college.
The IU Kokomo scholarships will be offered in eighth grade, and provide $250 per year for four years.
“Saving for the future, and providing these types of incentives for students, helps them build the identity of someone who goes to college,” said Sciame-Giesecke. “We are proud to partner in raising the educational attainment level of Wabash County residents.
Research shows that a child from a low and moderate income family who has a college savings account, even with a balance of less than $500, is three times more likely to attend college, and four times more likely to graduate from college, than those with no college savings.
The Wabash County Promise began as the vision of Wabash County YMCA CEO Clint Kugler and other local school leaders, who were concerned about persistent disparities in educational attainment and low participation in the state 529 savings program. Kugler and his team created a community-driven approach to activate families and communities to prepare children for college.
It has expanded to become Promise Indiana, with 14 counties actively participating, including Howard County, and 25 exploring a pilot for 2017. With support from the Indiana Education Savings Authority, CollegeChoice 529, Lilly Endowment Inc., and the State Alliance of Indiana YMCAs, six new communities will start the Promise in 2017.
IU Kokomo also partners with the United Way of Howard County, Kokomo Family YMCA, and the Community Foundation of Howard County to host more than 1,000 kindergarteners at the annual Walk into My Future event on campus, part of the Howard County Promise program.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.