The Kalamazoo Promise scholarship program was announced 15 years ago this week.
Since 2005, it has sent thousands of Kalamazoo Public School students on to college. Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri says nearly $150 million has been invested in the community through its young adults, so far.
"This incredible gift to our students is funded in perpetuity by a small group of anonymous donors. There are nearly 7,000 KPS graduates who have utilized this gift."
But Kalamazoo School Board President Patti Sholer Barber says it doesn't stop at free tuition at public and private universities and colleges in Michigan.
"It is designed for all students. And I love that we are especially doing skilled trades."
Other cities have created similar privately funded scholarships. But none are as generous or inclusive as Kalamazoo’s.
WMU Grant Helps Recruit More Teachers
Kalamazoo is one of two southwest Michigan school districts getting federal help recruiting new teachers. That's thanks to a grant of $4.9 million to Western Michigan University.
Kalamazoo Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri says it will help support staff who want to get teaching certificates while they're still on the job.
"This program will pay for candidates within the Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor school districts, like paraprofessionals, bus drivers, food service staff, and custodians."
Raichoudhuri and other KPS officials say the program could help overcome a statewide teacher shortage.
"If it is successful, this could serve as a model for school districts across the country. In addition to the grant, KPS is providing matching funds to make the Urban Teacher Residency Program a success."
Kalamazoo School Board Trustee Jennie Hill says problems facing public schools in recent years have led college students to pursue other majors. And that's created the shortage, especially for minority teachers.
"There were only a hundred from Michigan State, which is a college of 43,000 kids. One hundred teachers graduated; two were African American."
Officials say they hope to put 90 new teachers into local classrooms within the next three years.