Back-to-School Perspective: The Promise

By Susan Fumo, Board President

This fall the City of Rockford is celebrating back to school in a big way. One hundred and fifty Rockford Public School Students will start college with full-tuition scholarships thanks to Rockford Promise. Rockford Promise is a non-profit organization that partners with Rockford Public Schools, the City of Rockford, Northern Illinois University, Rockford University, and Rock Valley College. They’ve been providing full-tuition scholarships since 2016 when they started with 5 Promise Scholars. Modeled after other Promise programs around the country, Rockford Promise aims to increase the educational attainment rate of the community, attract families and businesses to the city, and strengthen the public schools. Most Promise programs support students only at community colleges. Rockford Promise includes two four year universities as well as two year degrees and certificate programs at Rock Valley College. Promise Scholars also receive mentors and other supports to help them learn how to navigate the pitfalls of higher education.

As college costs have skyrocketed over the last decade, “Free College” has become a buzzword in the media. Whether you love or hate that idea, Promise programs don’t give anyone a free ride. Students are still responsible for books, room and board, extra program fees, transportation, and living expenses. Some Rockford Promise Scholars also work full time jobs to support their families. Many are first generation college students. Most say they want to ultimately make Rockford their home.

There’s a proverb that says “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” Rockford Promise invests in the most precious resource that a community has – its young people. They are doubling down on workforce development so that they can truly transform Rockford into a city of the future.