Investment in Education Pays Off

A few years back, I wrote a story about Kalamazoo, a city of approximately 75,000, located in the southwest corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula approximately 136 miles west of Detroit. In 2005, the per capita income for the city was $20,088, and about 30 percent of the city population lived below the poverty line. What Kalamazoo does have going for it is “The Kalamazoo Promise,” a program designed to guarantee educational opportunities for students in the Kalamazoo Public Schools. All students who graduate from KPS, have continuous residency and enrollment in the district and have been KPS students four years or more are eligible for the program. Anonymous donors fund up to 100 percent tuition for eligible KPS graduates at public colleges and universities in Michigan. What a great incentive for students — go to school, graduate and get a four-year scholarship. What an incentive for community development — an educated workforce, new business development, increased property values and a better quality of life.

This month, Kalamazoo is making news again! Kalamazoo Central High School has been named as the winner of the first annual “Race To The Top Commencement Challenge” contest sponsored by the White House. The school’s prize: President Barack Obama is graduation speaker for the K-Central Class of 2010. The White House was looking for schools that were improving student outcomes, particularly among poor and minority students, and creating a college-going culture. Over 1,000 applications were received. The six finalists chosen were Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kan., Clark Montessori in Cincinnati, Ohio, Denver School of Science and Technology in Denver, Colo., Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, Calif., Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Mich. and MAST Academy in Miami, Fla. All six finalists represent the best that education has to offer.

Kalamazoo Central High School has been making serious strides in recent years to prepare kids for college — an effort tied to The Kalamazoo Promise. There is no question that their investment in education is paying off. All I can say is kudos to Kalamazoo!