[Editor’s note: we asked Hartford Promise Executive Director Richard Sugarman for a description of the first complement of Hartford Promise scholars.  Here is his update.]

The first group of Hartford Promise Scholars is 144 strong – amazing students who truly reflect the rich diversity of our city. These Promise Scholars represent multiple races, nationalities, religions and cultures.  They have attended all of our neighborhood, magnet and charter high schools. In many cases, they have overcome obstacles and hardships and have demonstrated true academic dedication and perseverance.

What does it take to be a Promise Scholar?

1.  Attend a Hartford Public High School continuously since Ninth Grade

2.  Be a Hartford Resident throughout high school

3.  Have a 93 percent or better cumulative attendance record during high school

4.  Have a 3.0 cumulative GPA or better on a 4.0 scale in high school

And what do Promise Scholars receive?

Up to a $20,000 scholarship for four-year colleges

Up to a $5,000 scholarship for two-year colleges

The launch of Hartford Promise has been very successful. Hartford Promise has been on the ground in Hartford high schools, raising visibility and awareness of our program.

Already the Promise Scholarship has had an impact on college decision making. Many more students are now able to attend four-year colleges, or to choose more highly ranked colleges. In addition, many can now choose to live on campus. These choices are ones which studies show lead to higher college graduation rates.

Our Promise Scholars are attending a wide variety of remarkable institutions: Yale, Wesleyan, UConn, Franklin & Marshall, Lafayette, Goodwin, Mount Holyoke, University of Saint Joseph, Trinity, Capital Community College, Springfield College, Eastern Connecticut State, Tufts, University of Hartford, Central Connecticut State, Manchester Community College, Wellesley, and others.

One of our proudest accomplishments during this first year was being able to leverage Promise Scholarship funds into additional college financial support. For example, UConn, Eastern Connecticut, and the University of Chicago will each match our Promise Scholarship, providing up to $5,000 a year in additional financial support for Promise Scholars. In addition, the University of Saint Joseph is providing free housing for Promise Scholars, and Central Connecticut State is providing an additional $3,000 housing grant to Promise Scholars this year.

Learn from Failures, Vault to Success

On August 10th we all gathered for our inaugural Hartford Promise Scholar Day – a day of celebration that afforded the students an opportunity to forge lasting bonds with each other as well as with our Hartford Promise staff. We know that creating a sense of belonging, as well as having peer and advocacy support, are all keys to successful college outcomes. In addition to creating meaningful connections, we felt it was essential that our scholars left the day with a better understanding of college expectations and the importance of self-advocacy. We stressed that a successful college experience comes from learning through both academic successes and failures, and that the perseverance that brought them this far will no doubt serve them well in their future.

Maybe the best way to truly understand the impact of the Promise Scholarships is to hear from the Promise Scholars in their own words:

~ “The Promise Scholarship is special to me because it is specific to Hartford. Living in Hartford it sometimes seems that very little is available to us, so to have this scholarship awarded to me and others in the city makes me feel special and hopeful. I am honored and excited for this opportunity to attend Wesleyan.”  Jada Jenkins, Achievement First HS

~ “This scholarship has been a pivotal part of my college decision making. Prior to this, tuition had been the most important factor in my decision. The Promise has enabled me to attend the college of my choice, UCONN. I plan to pursue a medical career in hopes of becoming a pediatrician, and I am honored to say that Hartford Promise has brought me closer to my dream.”  Franches Garay, Hartford Trinity Magnet HS

~ “The day that Richard Sugarman came to my school and introduced the Promise Scholarship altered my college decisions completely. It gave me the opportunity to go to an out-of-state school, Caldwell University. My parents were delighted to find that their daughter, the first family member to attend college, would be able to chase her dreams. Thanks to Hartford Promise every goal and ambition I ever had is becoming a reality.”   Elizabeth Rebeiro, Hartford Trinity Magnet HS

The ripple effect a Promise Scholarship can have is remarkable: it starts with our Promise Scholars, moves outward to include their families, and ultimately can encompass and transform the City of Hartford as we strengthen its college-going culture, increase student expectations and the number of Hartford students graduating from college, and add to a larger, more qualified, local workforce.  Our Promise Scholars are true role models, and they are a source of hope and optimism for the future of our city.

The Bottom Line.   Adding new voices to the content of our Education Matters! publication is important, and so is the work of the Hartford Promise in removing barriers to higher education for our talented young people, who are the future of Hartford and the State.  Families need to break the cycle of poverty, students need to reach their potential, Hartford needs well-educated and well-employed residents, and our employers need a talent-filled pipeline.  Aligning interests and working backwards from one goal of post-secondary degree completion is the goal of the All In! Coalition, set to launch publicly in late September; a critically important effort. Hartford’s time is right now.