Hazel Park Promise Zone offers more support for college

Scholarships increase for students graduating from Hazel Park High

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published February 1, 2019

HAZEL PARK — The Hazel Park Promise Zone is still going strong, ensuring that each student who lives in the district and graduates there can continue their education after high school. And the level of financial support they will receive is now increasing.

A student who attends Hazel Park Public Schools from fifth grade or earlier through graduation and who resides within the district’s boundaries can go to Oakland Community College with their tuition and fees fully covered, while students who enter the district between fifth grade and 12th grade are eligible for a percentage of the total scholarship. If they want to attend a school other than OCC, they can receive funds to do so as well.

And as of last month, students who choose to attend schools other than OCC are eligible for up to $1,500 per semester for four semesters. This is a total of $6,000, which is an increase from the previous maximum of $1,000 per semester, or $4,000 total.

“This change is very exciting for our students in Hazel Park,” said Amy Kruppe, district superintendent. “Every dollar that the Promise Zone can support toward our students’ education is of great benefit.”

Kayla Roney Smith, executive director of the Hazel Park Promise Zone and the related College Access Network, explained that students who receive federal Pell grant funding in a given semester will have that amount subtracted from their total scholarship for that period. Students do not receive Promise Zone funding when they receive more in Pell funds than the Promise Zone offers.

But there are still ways they, too, can benefit from the Promise Zone.  

“Fortunately, we have been able to provide funds to many of these students through summer tuition scholarships,” Roney Smith said. “Another exciting change for 2019 is the addition of a ‘Success’ component to our program. This will include ongoing coaching for our students after they graduate from high school to help overcome academic and nonacademic barriers that might come up and impede their abilities to be successful in postsecondary education.”

Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed legislation in early 2009 to allow for the creation of 10 Promise Zones across the state. The Hazel Park Promise Zone Authority formed in 2010 and began granting scholarships with the Class of 2012. The College Access Network was an outgrowth of the Promise Zone and continues to provide in-school counseling on education options after high school.

Since the fall of 2011, a full-time college adviser has worked with the high school students. Currently, the adviser is Mady Berns, who meets with each graduating senior at least once but generally meets with each more often, many on a weekly basis. Together they discuss their college applications and options in the fall, financial aid and academic/career options in the winter, and then the final transition to college in the spring. Underclassmen are also welcome to meet with her.

And last month, the school hired its first postsecondary success coach, Moussa Traore, previously the college adviser, who will assist students during their time in college.

“This hire is a major evolution for us, as it will significantly expand the assistance we are able to provide to our students,” Roney Smith said.  

To date, 149 students have received scholarship funding directly from the Promise Zone, while more than 1,000 others have received individualized college and career advising from its advisers, including assistance in securing other financial aid and scholarships that have reduced the need for direct Promise Zone scholarships.

The Promise Zone is funded through a combination of public and private funds. State funding is allocated to the Promise Zone based on increases in property values in the community, and with property values rising in Hazel Park, the authority has received varying amounts of funding during the last three years and anticipates receiving more in the years ahead.

The majority of its funding, however, comes from private sources, including generous individuals and dedicated community groups such as the Hazel Park Lions Club and Hazel Park Neighborhood Enrichment, as well as foundations such as the Sutar-Sutaruk-Meyer Foundation, the Walmart Foundation, the Kroger Foundation and others. The Michigan College Access Network has also been a strong ongoing supporter.

The Promise Zone also recently received funding from an annual auction event that has raised between $5,000 and $10,000 each year.

“Community support is critical to the success of the Promise Zone. We are always working to raise funds to be able to sustain and expand our program, such as our recent scholarship increase,” said Roney Smith. “We would like to be able to continue increasing the amount of funding we are able to provide individual students, and that will only be possible with additional funds.”

The next major fundraiser will be held Tuesday, March 19, at the UAW Chrysler National Training Center, located at 2500 E. Nine Mile Road in Warren. Tickets to the annual auction will go on sale this month at the authority’s website, hazelparkpromise.org.

“We are looking forward to highlighting our unique skilled trades training program, which is conducted in partnership with UAW Chrysler,” Roney Smith said.

There are other ways to get involved, too, such as a mentoring program that will be launched later this spring to match graduating seniors with mentors who have experience in their desired academic or career field. Anyone interested in being a mentor or buying tickets to the auction can email kayla.roney@hazelparkschools.org.

The superintendent praised the work of everyone involved in the Promise Zone.

“Ms. Roney Smith and the (Promise Zone) board have done an amazing job continuing to grow the services and support to all Hazel Park students,” Kruppe said. “This is a hidden gem that we need to continue to communicate to our families in Hazel Park.”