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Superintendent Plans $5,000 College Scholarships For Hartford Students

By VANESSA DE LA TORRE

April 24, 2012

HARTFORD Superintendent Christina Kishimoto announced a $12 million capital campaign Tuesday that will ask the city's corporate leaders and philanthropists to help Hartford graduates pay for college.

Starting with the Class of 2016, seniors who are city residents, meet attendance goals and graduate with a minimum B-average could receive up to a $5,000 scholarship per year to attend a four-year college public or private, in-state or out-of-state under the Hartford Promise.

Public school students who attend a two-year community college would get $2,500 per year that can go toward tuition, books or school fees.

"This is an absolute priority for me," said Kishimoto, who made known her desire to start a scholarship program similar to the New Haven Promise even before she became the city's school superintendent last July. "We need to motivate our students, and our students need to know the whole community is behind them."

During her inaugural state of the schools address at the Connecticut Science Center Tuesday morning, Kishimoto called onto stage Ramani Ayer, former CEO and chairman of The Hartford, and representatives from Travelers, the MetroHartford Alliance, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and the law firm of Murtha Cullina.

They are the Hartford Promise Champions, school officials said, who have committed to helping raise the estimated $12 million needed to support scholarships through the Class of 2023. Kishimoto indicated Tuesday that the school system has already lined up significant donations to be announced in a few weeks.

Oz Griebel, president and CEO of MetroHartford Alliance, said the program offers a "meaningful incentive for students to stay in school, to be in Hartford schools" a benefit not only to the students and their families, he said, but eventually for the area's economic development.

"We have an aging workforce," Griebel said. The education of urban youth "is critical."

Griebel believes the business community will support the initiative, despite hard times. "There is a very solid acknowledgment and respect for what has been accomplished to date," he said of the city's education reform efforts.

As the campaign's honorary chairman, Mayor Pedro Segarra said he plans to reach out to potential donors and also link the value of students' success to the economy.

"They understand how important this is to them and to the city of Hartford," Segarra said.

To qualify for the scholarships, students must be enrolled in Hartford public schools since at least the ninth grade. The total value for a student attending a four-year college would be $20,000, with the option of an additional year if a graduate pursues a master's degree in education.

Cecily Stevenson, 14, an eighth-grader at Rawson Middle Grades Academy, would be among the first group of students to benefit from the Hartford Promise as part of the class of 2016. She imagined Tuesday that it would help her afford tuition at the University of Connecticut.

"I want to be a lawyer," Stevenson said.

Travelers conducted an actuarial analysis on the schools' behalf to estimate how much money would be needed to fund Hartford Promise, considering factors such as the annual number of high school graduates over the past decade, the cost of attending public colleges in Connecticut and the average federal Pell Grant awards for city students, Kishimoto said. She expected the campaign to raise at least half the $12 million over the next year.

Beyond 2023, Kishimoto said the school system would likely consider families' needs and the status of the achievement gap in deciding whether to fund scholarships for future graduates.

Although Shay Teal's daughter wouldn't receive a Hartford Promise scholarship the girl, a freshman at University High School of Science and Engineering, would graduate in 2015 Teal said the initiative is "still beautiful and I'm advocating for it."

Hartford students who make it to college often struggle financially, said Teal, president of the Hartford Parent Organization Council. "When you have this put aside for you, that's one less thing that you worry about," she said.

In New Haven, the city's scholarship pact with Yale University has awarded about $93,000 to public school graduates from the class of 2011, the program's inaugural year, said Betsy Yagla, communications director for the New Haven Promise.

Yale has committed up to $4 million annually in scholarship money to New Haven students with good grades, behavior, attendance and a record of community service throughout high school. Graduating seniors in 2014 will be eligible for full-tuition scholarships at in-state public colleges or universities, or up to $2,500 annually to attend private, nonprofit colleges in Connecticut.

Because the program is being phased in, the 2011 recipients receive up to 25 percent of those amounts. Currently, 79 of 105 Promise students are attending public colleges or universities, Yagla said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
     
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