For Hartford high school students, having no money and staring at the prospect of life-changing debt can mean not even attempting (much less going on to finish) college. Many students consider just leaving when the pressures mount midstream. The work of the Hartford Promise Scholars program is all about guaranteeing students with a 3.0 GPA and 93 percent attendance a path. This year, 14 percent of Hartford high school seniors have earned these scholarships. This is a major victory … but really just a start.
Hartford cannot stop here. With the vast majority of Hartford Promise scholars presenting as low-income and first-generation college-going students, plainly, the scholarships of up to $20,000 are all about taking luck out of the equation, President Richard Sugarman of the Hartford Promise program told us in a recent interview. Poor kids don’t need luck; they need ways to succeed.
The 113 Hartford Promise scholars this year were among 823 Hartford-resident students in the freshman class of 2013; 47 attended the seven traditional high schools, 51 attended 10 magnet schools, and 15 attended one charter school, Achievement First.
“Clearly, we want to grow the numbers,” President Sugarman said, as well as to push the numbers all the way through college graduation. From the 2016 high school graduating class, he said, 95 percent of the Hartford college-going students are persisting through their first year of college right now. That’s a very impressive data point.
For the future, President Sugarman said, “We plan to be very aggressive in developing fundraising,” because while this year’s 14 percent Hartford Promise contingent “is a big enough chunk to change culture and create expectations for success,” it will be the $50, $500, $5,000, and $50,000 donors who will open doors for more Hartford kids. “We want to have many, many supporters.” This is an important contribution, warranting support from any and all who care about our capital city, our region, and our state.
At Bulkeley High School, we were able to meet last week with Hartford Promise Scholars Cavana Carey, Klay Clarke, Paola Garriga, Kerry Ann Genas, Destiny Gonzalez, and Rebecca Vazquez, who share a common characteristic: At one time or another, all went to Renzulli.
Here is a sampling of their views as to the thought and other processes concerning going to college:
Plan well but be flexible. “You get motivated from others,” Paola Garriga told us, noting that she has evolved through aspirations of being a teacher or a pediatrician – but now is inspired toward fine arts. People grow and make adjustments, especially in high school and college. As senior class president, she is balancing helping other students with getting inspiration from them. Her senior class vice president colleague (and fellow Hartford Promise Scholar) Rebecca Vazquez, works at Shop Rite now, but wants to take lessons from there and move up and on. She will.
Money in the Bank Is Key. “I’ve been counting on this since last year,” Cavana Carey told us. She plans to attend Central CT State University, as it is the only college she can afford. Her aunt, who has a broad human resources, psychology, and biology background, has helped her to love science. She advises her younger peers, middle school students, to visit a variety of colleges and not get caught up in going to a place just to say you did. As in basketball, you have to finish.
Disincentives about Destiny. On reflection, when choosing a college or a college major – or taking on immense debt – “There is a fear of what you are doing for the rest of your life,” Destiny Gonzalez observed (she does her homework late at night because she is participating in three internships).
It’s Not Moot. Klay Clarke recently won events at the Washington, D.C., moot court competition led by Bulkeley Teacher Justin Taylor. Fearing law school debt, he says, he will likely choose another field. “College is a gamble; so much debt with no job” after matriculation can be a devastating result, he said.
Here is the link to the District’s information on the Hartford Promise Scholars and, on a related note, here is the CT Mirror article on the graduation requirements of our state, as currently being sought.
The Bottom Line
These 113 students – and those who came before and are lining up – are the future of Hartford. If you have the wherewithal, supporting the Hartford Promise Scholars can change lives.
Please consider banding together with a few friends and doing so.