All of us in the Battle Creek community want our city and region to have a prosperous future.
One of the most promising avenues we can take to help our community recover from the COVID-19 pandemic is ensuring our young people can get the education and training they need to secure good-paying jobs that set them up for a bright economic future.
But according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, more than 1 million fewer students are enrolled in college than prior to the pandemic, representing a drop of 6.6 percent. That number is doubled for community college, where enrollment has failed nearly 13 percent.
This is especially troublesome because more students with limited financial resources tend to choose community college to pursue an education and brighter economic future.
To help our community become a more equitable place of opportunity, we need to guarantee that our young people — from young children to young adults — have access to affordable high-quality educational programs.
That’s why we are so honored to be a part of the improved Legacy Scholars program announced recently. These changes will better support graduates of Battle Creek Public Schools, Lakeview Schools and Calhoun County High School in pursuing their dreams of higher education and career training.
This scholarship covers up to 62 hours of tuition, books and fees at Kellogg Community College or the costs of a career trade school or apprenticeship program. To apply, students only need to fill out a simple, one-page form, and the program can now be combined with other grants and need-based financial assistance. There are no GPA requirements or essays — so no eligible graduate is turned away.
Graduates of eligible schools who have been sitting on the sidelines now have the resources to kickstart their path forward to economic success. The program is available for up to five years after graduation and is changing from offering last dollar support to first dollar support. That means this scholarship can now be combined with other financial aid to help students cover many costs, including tuition, books, food, transportation and childcare.
I’m also proud of the expanded partnerships that support students in Battle Creek. We continue to work with longtime partners at Battle Creek College Access Network, Battle Creek Community Foundation, Kellogg Community College, Battle Creek Public Schools, Lakeview School District and Calhoun Community High School, and are excited to welcome new partners, including Michigan Works! and Grand Valley State University.
The Legacy Scholars program is part of a broader range of educational initiatives in the Battle Creek community that we are honored to support, beginning in early childhood and running through higher education and career training.
Innovative use of data by organizations throughout the community have helped our youngest learners achieve a kindergarten readiness rate of just over 50 percent, more than tripling the 2013 kindergarten readiness rate of 15.5 percent.
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The transformation of BCPS has focused on helping students prepare for careers. Professionals from the Battle Creek community worked with BCPS students to help them understand how what they learn in school can apply to their goals for the future. This learning starts in middle school with virtual conversations with experts in relevant careers.
Battle Creek Central High School (BCCHS) offers Career Academies, in partnership with Ford Next Generation Learning, to connect students to career-focused pathways where they engage in interest-based and experiential learning. Students in the health care and nursing pathways train in a state-of-the-art healthcare simulation lab at BCCHS, the only one of its kind in West Michigan. Students over the age of 18 can gain full Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certifications through the program upon graduation from high school.
Grand Valley State University’s Outreach Center in downtown Battle Creek connects the community with support in exploring potential careers and educational opportunities and provides BCPS students with four-year scholarships to GVSU.
Help us build excitement about new opportunities that can boost the trajectory of our local economy. Point eligible students and graduates to the Legacy Scholars application page at bccfoundation.org/legacy-scholars and encourage them to take the first step to a brighter future.
The June Montgomery Tabron is president and CEO of the WK Kellogg Foundation.