TOLEDO, Ohio — The idea of free college when you're still in high school is a dream come true, but for the graduating seniors of Scott High School, it is now a reality.
Students in the 2021 graduating class at Scott High School will have an opportunity to apply for a scholarship from HOPE Toledo, which will fund their post-secondary education—community college, university or trade school — including tuition, room and board, books and fees.
"I was crying, this is something I did not expect actually," Scott High School senior Patricia Hampton said.
There is optimism and excitement for the 2021 senior class at Scott High School, knowing they have more options open to continue their education at little to no cost.
"I've been working so hard all my four years, trying to think about how I'm going to pay for college actually," senior Rayvon Braziel said. "That's what I've been worried about every day for the last couple months."
The offer is also being extended to one parent or guardian of the student. Some are already planning to take advantage of it.
"Hopefully, I can achieve a Bachelor's in something. I don't know what yet, I haven't processed it, but I am more than willing and able and ready to embark that journey as well," Rayvon's mother, Aarona Braziel-McMullen said.
The program includes the assignment of a HOPE Toledo Promise mentor to each family.
The amount covered depends on how long the student has been at Scott. If they've gone all four years, 100% of their secondary education will be free, including book and room and board.
Toledo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Romules Durant said this scholarship gives every one of their graduating seniors a huge advantage and reason to pursue higher education.
"When you think of people graduating with $40,000, $60,000, $80,000 of debt, these kids will graduate and go right into their employment field and all earned income will be theirs," he said.
So, where are some of the students planning to go? Some haven't made up their minds just yet, but others said they're are excited about the future.
"Now I get to go to Central State and study communication and broadcasting," senior Mer'Kyah Warren said.
"I hope to go to the University of Toledo and I want to become a physical therapist," Patricia Hampton said.
HOPE Toledo Promise is designed to remove barriers to affordability, while also serving as a vehicle to advance economic and workforce development opportunities.
“HOPE Toledo Promise is thrilled to support the graduating Class of 2021,” HOPE Toledo President Rev. John C. Jones said. “We know the future is bright and we have HOPE for these graduates as that future unfolds, as well as for ALL of our young people across the Toledo region.”
The program is modeled after H.O.P.E. Scott Promise, founded by Pete Kadens and The Kadens Family Foundation. Kadens’ idea for H.O.P.E., which stands for Helping Our Population Educate, arose from his desire to see all students, regardless of background, receive equitable access to quality education. He believes that education is the pathway out of systemic and generational poverty and leads to economic stability for communities and families.
On January 29, 2020, Kadens first announced to students and parents at Scott High School, that The Kadens Family Foundation—in partnership with the ProMedica Foundation—would help the Class of 2020 pursue post-secondary education. He also extended the offer to one parent or guardian.
Over the course of the first year of this program, H.O.P.E, now the HOPE Toledo Promise led by HOPE Toledo President Rev. John C. Jones, has touched more than 80 families from the Scott High School community.
Currently, there are 66 Scholars who enrolled in the fall semester (2020) — 61 graduates of Scott and five parents of Scott graduates. The remainder have enrolled in the spring or will enroll in the fall of 2021. These numbers alone represent an increase in the post-secondary enrollment rate, from previous graduating classes, by over 80%.
HOPE Toledo Promise is funded in partnership with the ProMedica Ebeid Neighborhood Promise, The Kadens Family Foundation, and community and corporate donors. The program is unique in its broad support from community partners.
Partners include: Toledo Public Schools, Bowling Green State University, The University of Toledo, Eastern Michigan University, Lourdes University, Owens Community College, The Ohio State University, ProMedica, Toledo Academy of Beauty and Culture, Central State University, Hocking College, Mercy College of Ohio, Pathway 4 Successful Leadership, ProMedica Financial Opportunity Center, Wright State University, College Promise Campaign, Paul Mitchell, Terra State Community College and Jesup Wakeman Scott High School.
“We are proud to have helped seed and launch HOPE Toledo, and thrilled to see the continued expansion of the scholarship and program,” ProMedica’s president of the Social Determinants of Health Institute Kate Sommerfeld said. “This expanded resource will continue to be a game-changer for so many individuals and families.”
HOPE Toledo is aggressively seeking funding to support this program and future scholarships. As funding for the HOPE Toledo Promise program increases, it is the goal of the organization to expand opportunities to other schools and students.
During the initial stages of HOPE Toledo’s development, the ProMedica Foundation has agreed to serve as the not-for-profit’s fundraising agent. The ProMedica Foundation is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. All donations to the HOPE Toledo initiative through the ProMedica Foundation are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.