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Detroit Rising Together

March 23, 2016
Scholarship, career programs key to increasing opportunity across city

By Mayor Mike Duggan

Page 24

Talent is equally distributed among all, but opportunity is not. That’s what makes the Detroit Promise one of the most important initiatives that our city has undertaken in our lifetimes.

The Detroit Promise offers a permanent, dedicated source of revenue to support higher education for Detroit students. No longer will a family’s financial situation be a roadblock to an education and promising careers for our city’s young people.

Indeed, it is a game-changer.

And the Detroit Promise would not have been possible if it were not for our partners at the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Detroit Scholarship Fund and the Michigan Excellence in Education Foundation.

For years, the Chamber has helped send hundreds of Detroit kids to college every year on scholarships. Mirroring the requirements of a Promise Zone, the Chamber’s existing two-year scholarship program provides a tuition-free path to an associate’s degree for a graduate of any Detroit high school – no matter whether private, public, or charter. Now, with the establishment of the Detroit Promise Zone, we can build off of that program and reach significantly more students. I want to thank the Chamber for its commitment to Detroit’s youth.

The Detroit Promise is not only a mission for higher education, but also a mission for workforce and economic development, as well as an initiative to reduce joblessness and improve the quality of life for residents of our city.

So how does it work?

Promise zones have been around in Michigan since 2009, when Gov. Jennifer Granholm designated 10 of them across the state. The goal was simple: Create more opportunities for students across the state to attend college, helping to transform Michigan communities in the process. Unfortunately, until the Chamber stepped in, the City of Detroit was not in the financial position to be able to take advantage of the legislation.

That’s because one of the stipulations is that cities must demonstrate the ability to operate Promise Zones through funding scholarships for two years before they are allowed to begin using State Education Tax money to pay for the program. That’s where the Detroit Chamber stepped up.

This month, the City will submit a plan to the state Treasury, and if we get it approved by June, the State will begin to set aside State Education Tax dollars later this year, and each year thereafter, to be utilized by the City, after demonstrating the ability to operate for two years.

In coming years, we anticipate exploring ways to expand the Promise, providing more wraparound services for scholarship recipients and expanding support for four-year programs. Several philanthropic organizations have already expressed an interest in helping us grow the Promise – especially if we are able to restore local control of the school district and broader educational landscape to the people of Detroit.

Coupled with our Grow Detroit’s Young Talent initiative, which will help place more than 8,000 kids in summer jobs where they’ll learn jobs skills that will last a lifetime, we are changing the game for Detroit’s youth and our city’s future.

We’re also proud of our other programs, such as Motor City Match, which helps Detroiters make their small-business dreams a reality; our home mortgage programs that help families stop renting and start owning; our work through the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation to help put more Detroiters – including our returning citizens – into stable jobs; improved and more plentiful DDOT bus routes to help get Detroiters to work; and more.

There is more work to do, but thanks to partners such as the Detroit Regional Chamber, we are making Detroit a city of opportunity for all. This is Detroit rising together.