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Hazel Park

January 29, 2014

Dinner at raceway supports Hazel Park Promise Zone

Feb. 8 event to feature L. Brooks Patterson and Sander Levin

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

HAZEL PARK — The Hazel Park High Class of 2012 was the first to enjoy the benefits of the Hazel Park Promise Zone — tuition-free college scholarships, available to every student who graduates from Hazel Park High and lives in the district.

This “promise” continues to be available to current students at the high school, and all students attending there in the future. It only depends on the fundraising ability of the Hazel Park Promise Zone Authority, which must privately raise the money necessary.

They do so in a variety of ways, like the upcoming “Race to College” — a dinner and silent auction at Hazel Park Harness Raceway, at the corner of 10 Mile and Dequindre, starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8.

The event costs $50 per person, or $95 per couple, and will take place on the fourth floor of the clubhouse, or on the bridge connecting the clubhouse and the grandstand, depending on attendance. The venue will be furnished in maroon and gray, the colors of Hazel Park High.

A jazz quartet from the high school will play early in the evening. Dinner is at 6 p.m. and includes chicken piccata (chicken breast sautéed in white wine, lemon, capers and artichoke hearts), dauphine potatoes (sliced potatoes baked in milk and topped with cheese), green beans sautéed in olive oil and garlic, dinner salad with raspberry vinaigrette, and a dessert table with various items including a chocolate fountain.

A cash bar is also available, and all soft drinks are included in the price.

Guest speakers include Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and U.S. Congressman Sander Levin. A silent auction will also take place during the evening. Proceeds from both the admission fee and auction will benefit the Promise Zone.

Guests are free to stay as long as they wish, and can also partake in simulcast wagering and other raceway activities.

This is not the first time the raceway has helped the Promise Zone. In September 2012, they were the first raceway to host the Currier and Ives lithograph collection, dating back to the late 1800s. Previously, they had only appeared in museums. Proceeds from the event went to the Promise Zone.

“The Promise Zone is supported by the community, for the community’s kids,” said Ladd Biro, director of racing at Hazel Park Harness Raceway. “It’s very select and offers a lot of opportunity to kids who might not otherwise have that opportunity of college.”

Made law in 2009 by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the Promise Zone allows 10 economically distressed areas, Hazel Park included, to recapture one-half of the increase in the state education tax, which does not affect the district’s per-pupil allocation.

However, the Promise Zone must privately fundraise for the first two years before the state chips in their contribution, and even then, it may take longer, since the city’s property values are still recovering.

“Right now, we’re completely privately funded,” said Kayla Roney, executive director of the Hazel Park Promise Zone.

As long as students live in the district and graduate from Hazel Park High, they are eligible for two-year college scholarships, up to $2,000 a year, which can be used at community colleges, four-year colleges and trade schools.

The amount of the scholarship is determined based on the length of consecutive attendance at Hazel Park Public Schools. The program also takes into consideration other state or federal money received by the graduate, since the program is designed to help the most those who wouldn’t qualify for other funding sources. Private scholarships don’t count against the Promise Zone amount.

“We guarantee them a tuition-free path to, at minimum, an associate degree,” Roney said. “In addition to being one of the state’s 10 Promise Zones, we’re also a recognized college access network, which means we’re a coordinator of college access resources for the community, providing a full-time college advisor at the high school.”

This coordinator meets with each senior at the high school, and helps him or her figure out the next step. For many students, they’re the first generation in their family to attend college, and planning can be overwhelming. The coordinator helps guide them.

Some students may even opt for trade school or the military. Wherever they go, the Promise Zone wants them to know all of their options and be successful.

“We’re here for the community as a whole,” Roney said. “We want to aid in the redevelopment of Hazel Park by increasing the education attainment rate.”

This is accomplished not only with the support of the Promise Zone, the guidance of the college coordinator and visits to college campuses — something Hazel Park High students did this past fall and will do again in March — but also by reaching out to younger grades, with presentations at the junior high, and age-appropriate booklets for fifth-graders in the elementary schools.

“We’re talking to them about making the right choices from a young age and how it will affect their future,” Roney said. “That’s one of our goals: to create a college-going culture in Hazel Park.”

“Race to College,” a dinner and silent auction at Hazel Park Harness Raceway, 1650 E. 10 Mile at the corner of Dequindre, will start at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8. The event benefits the Hazel Park Promise Zone and costs $50 per person or $95 per couple. For more information, call the raceway at (248) 398-1000.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.