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Superintendent Proposes Scholarship Program For Hartford Students

Kishimoto Asks Businesses To Help Students Pay For College

By VANESSA DE LA TORRE

September 13, 2011

HARTFORD Corporate and philanthropic funding for the city schools is around $10 million, but on Tuesday, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto suggested to business leaders an even bigger investment helping Hartford students pay for college.

"I like to think big and figure out how we get there," Kishimoto told members of the MetroHartford Alliance after updating them on the schools' test-score gains.

In her speech at the Bushnell, Kishimoto highlighted the rising graduation rate and her goal of preparing students for college. With many Hartford families in poverty, however, affording tuition might be a dream. So Kishimoto proposed a citywide scholarship program.

"Initially, I thought about putting a time frame out there," Kishimoto said later, but that would have been "premature" to do before securing support from the business community. She also didn't estimate the costs.

So far, Kishimoto said, she has sensed "some trepidation around 'how do you sustain this,' especially when everyone is thinking about it in light of the economic climate right now.

"But at the same time, they know that if we're really going to build capacity in the city for a future workforce, then we need to start paying attention to this."

One national model is the Kalamazoo Promise, Kishimoto said, which pays tuition for that city's public school graduates who want to attend a state university or college in Michigan. Investors have endowed at least $17 million in the past several years.

Locally, Hartford's Global Communications Academy is run in partnership with Say Yes to Education, a national foundation that has pledged college scholarships to students who graduate from the school.

And in New Haven, the city and Yale University have a pact called the New Haven Promise, modeled after Kalamazoo's, that offers tuition for residents who graduate from a city or charter school with good grades, community service and at least 90 percent attendance. Those students must and attend a public, in-state college to receive scholarship money.

If Hartford were to pursue a similar program, Kishimoto said it would likely begin on a smaller scale, such as offering partial scholarships and working with local public and private colleges to reserve seats for city students.

"The concept of giving anybody who wants to go to school the overall support that he or she needs is, I think, critical," said Oz Griebel, MetroHartford Alliance's CEO. "Now whether that translates into financial support is another question."

Griebel said he plans to meet with Kishimoto to discuss "where could this go, what will it look like."

For Andy Bessette, the idea has potential. The executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Travelers, a major donor to the school system, pointed out the company's own initiative called Travelers EDGE. It stands for Empowering Dreams for Graduation and Employment and is designed as a stepping stone for low-income and urban students.

Capital Community College, Central Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut are partners in the program, and along with providing scholarships, Travelers mentors the students or recruits with the aim of hiring them post-graduation.

"If every company took on 10, 15, 20 kids," Bessette said, "it could make a difference."

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.
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