Ds Scholarship

Hazel Park Promise Zone continues to send students to college

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HAZEL PARK — Over the past decade, the Hazel Park Promise Zone has been continually fundraising to provide college scholarships to city residents who graduate from the Hazel Park Public Schools.

The program started when former Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed legislation in 2009 that allowed for the formation of 10 “promise zones” across Michigan in communities that met or exceeded the state’s average poverty level for families with minor children.

The Hazel Park Promise Zone then started in 2010 with grants from major donors such as the Sutar-Sutaruk-Meyer Foundation, along with local fundraising efforts. Currently, the Ballmer Group funds the Promise Zone’s College Success Coaching program. The Hazel Park Promise Zone also receives a portion of its funding from the state.

Donations from the public are also welcome, and can be made online at the official website, hazelparkpromise.org/donate.

The way the Hazel Park Promise Zone works is that residents who graduate from the district will each receive a scholarship that provides them a tuition-free pathway to obtaining an associate’s degree from Oakland Community College (OCC).

Alternatively, a student attending an in-state, non-OCC institution is eligible for up to $1,500 per semester for a total of $6,000, if the student receives zero Pell Grant funds.

More than 70 students receive the scholarship each year in Hazel Park. Students have up to six years beyond their high school graduation to use their scholarship.

In addition, around 300 students benefit from the promise zone’s support network each year. This includes college advising, coaching and mentoring support, as well as a full-time Americorps college advisor who works with each student to apply to college and search for scholarships, and a full-time college success coach who helps support college freshmen during their first year of college. There is also a community mentoring program through the promise zone that pairs students with motivated mentors during their first year of college.

These services are extended to all high school students in the district, including those who live outside Hazel Park and don’t qualify for scholarships through the promise zone. The Hazel Park Public Schools also serve parts of Ferndale.

While individual contributions decreased last year during the pandemic, the organization’s biggest donors have remained committed, organizers say. The pandemic also saw the United Way of Southeastern Michigan and Michigan College Access stepping in with emergency grants to provide students with laptops and funds to support college initiatives.

“With less than 15% of Hazel Park adults holding a post-secondary degree or certification, most Hazel Park students aspire to be the first in their families to earn a post-secondary credential,” said Brandon Gleaton, executive director of the Hazel Park Promise Zone, in an email. “By investing in Hazel Park students, you can have an impact on the students themselves, their families, and the future of the community and state of Michigan. In fact, last school year, Hazel Park graduates outpaced the state of Michigan (average) with college enrollment.”

Ellen Lipton, treasurer of the Hazel Park Promise Zone Board, said in an email, “At the Hazel Park Promise Zone Board, we don’t that college is just for some students. We believe that every student deserves the opportunity to go to and through college successfully, and we are here to help them every step of the way.”

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