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Hartford Promise Scholarship Fund Gets $4.1 Million In Donations

By VANESSA DE LA TORRE

January 23, 2013

HARTFORD The Hartford Promise college scholarship program is on track after receiving $4.1 million from six donors, including $2 million from the Travelers Foundation, school officials said this week.

Starting in 2016, Hartford high school seniors graduating from the public school system can be awarded up to $20,000 over four years to help pay for college.

Administrators said that at least $12 million will be needed to support the program through the Class of 2023, based on projections that roughly 180 to 210 city graduates would qualify for the scholarships each year. Several area leaders and corporate executives have pledged to raise the rest of the money.

"The Hartford Promise is real now," Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said in a statement following Tuesday's ceremony that formally launched the fund. "It will better enable our young people to have an impact on the world."

"A vital aspect to a good quality of life is education and ... we see the education of our young people as part of our mission of service," said Jeffrey Flaks, president and CEO of Hartford Hospital, which gave $1 million.

Donations also came from Say Yes to Education, a nonprofit founded by philanthropist George Weiss ($500,000); Ramani Ayer, former CEO and chairman of The Hartford ($300,000); Newman's Own Foundation ($200,000) and Robert Patricelli, chairman and CEO of Avon-based Women's Health USA ($100,000).

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving will manage the funds.

This year's high school freshmen members of the Class of 2016 are the first to be eligible for the Hartford Promise. To qualify, students must attend city schools since at least ninth grade, reside in Hartford, meet attendance goals and graduate with an overall B-average or better.

They must sign a pledge that reads, in part, "I am dedicated to academic excellence. I understand that this commitment determines the quality of my life in the future."

Students attending a four-year college, public or private, would receive $5,000 per year, while those enrolled full-time in a two-year community college would get $2,500 annually. In addition, students who pursue a master's degree in education or teaching can receive another year of funding.

Mayor Pedro Segarra said he considers the scholarships an investment into the city's long-term economic development and need for skilled workers. Kishimoto has also tied the initiative to ongoing school reform and as an incentive for students to remain in the Hartford school system.

Patricelli and Andy Bessette, Travelers' chief administrative officer, have been named co-chairmen of the Hartford Promise Champions, the leaders tasked with fundraising and advocating for the program.

Ayer will serve as the fundraising chairman, according to school officials, and the law firm of Murtha Cullina will be the pro bono legal counsel.

Kishimoto introduced the capital campaign in her "State of the Schools" address last April. Previously, she floated the scholarship idea to Hartford-area business leaders in September 2011.

Kishimoto pointed to the Kalamazoo Promise in Michigan, which pays tuition for city public school graduates who attend a state university or college. That program inspired the New Haven Promise, a city pact with Yale University that is offering full-tuition scholarships for graduating seniors, starting in 2014, who will attend in-state public colleges or universities.

New Haven's Class of 2013 can receive up to 75 percent of the full scholarship.

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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