Three Rivers Promise scholarship program announced

New scholarship aims to give all TRHS grads a college education

THREE RIVERS — A new scholarship for Three Rivers High School students is looking to provide every TRHS graduate a college scholarship.

The Three Rivers Promise, officially announced Monday, is a new volunteer-driven scholarship created by prominent community leaders and former educators in Three Rivers, with the goal to provide every graduate of TRHS a scholarship toward tuition and fees for post-secondary education at Michigan public colleges and vocational schools.

Tom Lowry, Three Rivers mayor and president of the Three Rivers Promise Board, said the scholarship is modeled after the highly-successful Kalamazoo Promise, with the long-term goal of fully funding tuition and fees for TRHS graduates to go to college in Michigan.

“It's a non-profit group set up to build an endowment and then we'll partially – and at some point hopefully totally fund – tuition and mandatory fees for all Three Rivers High School graduates to go on to Michigan public colleges and universities and not-for-profit vocational technical programs,” Lowry said. “Whether it's six months, 24 months, all those programs are eligible as long as it's not for profit.”

The scholarship is currently running a campaign to reach its initial funding goal of $3 million, and is seeking support from community members, businesses and local organizations to start partially funding scholarships.

The Three Rivers Promise, once it is fully-funded, will operate on a sliding scale of benefit, similar to the Kalamazoo Promise. The main requirement is that students who complete an application for the scholarship be at least enrolled all four years in TRHS to receive any portion of the scholarship. If a student attends Three Rivers Community Schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, they will receive 100 percent benefit, down to 65 percent benefit for just attending ninth through 12th grade.

“Essentially, we're working closely with the schools, all the application forms are online, the school will have them also, the school will encourage people to consider applying to us if you need it,” Lowry said.

One main difference between the Three Rivers Promise and the Kalamazoo Promise, Lowry said, is that unlike Kalamazoo, there is no grade point average requirement for TRHS students who are set to graduate to be eligible to apply.

“The reason we did that is because we know people who did not graduate with a 2.0 [GPA], and they turn out to be great parents one day or great citizens or some of our best musicians or inventors or entrepreneurs in our country's history,” Lowry said. “It's not because they're dumb or not motivated, sometimes some family circumstances overwhelm a student, and we recognize that. As long as you graduate from Three Rivers, you're eligible.”

Once graduates start receiving money from the scholarship, Lowry said, they have to maintain a 2.0 GPA in college on a semester-by-semester basis to remain eligible.

Lowry said the scholarship will take some time to get fully funded and reach their initial $3 million goal to start partially funding scholarships. They hope to achieve that initial goal through donations from people in the community as well as other entities, and hope to eventually fund the scholarship in perpetuity.

“We have roughly $200,000 after just a few weeks, and are expecting more,” Lowry said. “We'll go to the community over the next several months and talk to a lot of people, hopefully do presentations at churches and social clubs.

“It'll take us a few years, and we don't have deep pockets like Kalamazoo is blessed with that can just give it outright. We don't have it, so we'll have to work to it,” Lowry continued.

Lowry said the scholarship was created to try to mirror the success of the Kalamazoo Promise.

“For years we've watched he Kalamazoo Promise grow, and I had been asking people for years if we could do it here. I got tired of people saying no, and I finally found a group that said let's do it. We're going to make it happen,” Lowry said.

The scholarship’s board consists of multiple community leaders, including Lowry, First Presbyterian Church Pastor Brenda Deily, Riviera Theatre Executive Director Danielle Moreland and SafetyGlassesUSA founder Michael Eldridge, as well as former educators in the area, including Lowry, 34-year educator and former Carnegie Center director Helen McCauslin, former Paw Paw school teacher Bruce Ruesink, former TRCS Board of Education member Pete Bennett, and former TRCS teachers Leilani Ruesink and Diane Foghino.

Lowry said the vision for the scholarship is not just to help out students, but also families and the Three Rivers community in general.

“The vision is to open doors for children and students to allow them to work into a good-paying job, to work into the middle class to raise their children. The vision also includes family, because it'll make it easier on the parents to allow that student to do that, and maybe they could use that money for other children in their family or other needs,” Lowry said. “The vision is also for the community; hopefully it'll make Three Rivers a more attractive place to raise a family, to live here, for businesses to relocate here and to stay here.”

In a statement, Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christy Trammell agreed with Lowry’s assessment of the potential economic development opportunities the scholarship could have.

“We see the Three Rivers Promise as an economic development tool that will enhance all the [key] components it provides…[including] reduced cost education for students allowing them to further their education and obtain quality jobs,” Trammell said. “This initiative also attracts new residents and businesses to invest in our community, creating a win-win for everyone.”

Lowry said he hopes the scholarship becomes a significant part of the community’s identity in the future.

“I hope it becomes a significant part of being a student here and living here, and that you understand through Kindergarten and on if your family isn't wealthy, you can still go to college or vocational school,” Lowry said. “I hope it becomes a part of our culture, it's just one more tool families can rely on and one more tool the schools can recommend or use themselves.”

Those who wish to learn more about the Three Rivers Promise or wish to make a donation are encouraged to visit the scholarship’s website, www.threeriverspromise.com, call (844) 873-7326 or email support@threeriverspromise.com.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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