Starting with this year’s senior class, students from all 16 Muskegon County high schools could qualify for two free years of college.
“The countywide expansion of the Muskegon Area Promise is a game-changer. In 2017, we expect the addition of 167 new Promise Scholars and about $200,000 in new revenue from the state,” said MAISD Superintendent Dr. John Severson. “We are extremely grateful to our initial four founding funders—Hines Corporation, Nichols, Adac Automotive, and the Alcoa Foundation who each stepped up with a $100,000 commitment one year ago. Their vision and generosity prompted other organizations and individuals to invest a total of over one million dollars needed to launch the Promise,” said Severson.
“By law, we had to privately fund the first two years before we are allowed to capture one-half of the growth in the existing state education tax. This added public funding is the key to our expansion and future success,” Severson explained. “If property values continue to climb, we anticipate being fully funded through the tax capture as early as year six and beyond,” he added.
To be a Promise Scholar, graduates must live and attend high school within the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) boundaries, earn at least a 3.5 GPA, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and enroll at either Muskegon Community College (MCC) or Baker College of Muskegon. Tuition is covered at the current MCC rate. This year’s rate, including a book allowance, is $4,724.
Starting in 2017, tuition free Promise scholarships will be available to students attending the following 16 high schools: Calvary Christian Schools, Fruitport Community Schools, Holton Public Schools, Mona Shores Public Schools, Montague Area Public Schools, Muskegon Catholic Schools, Muskegon Covenant Academy, Muskegon Public Schools, Muskegon Heights Public School Academy, North Muskegon Public Schools, Oakridge Public Schools, Orchard View Schools, Ravenna Public Schools, Reeths-Puffer Schools, Western Michigan Christian, and Whitehall District Schools.
Promise officials expect to grow from 25 scholars from Holton, Muskegon, and Muskegon Heights schools today, to 176 scholars in 2017. “As we expand, we continue to engage a group of highly talented leaders who serve on the Muskegon Area Promise Authority Board,” said Severson.
New to the board this year are Laurel Zwit, Realtor with Greenridge Realty; John Swanson, President of Swanson Pickle Company of Ravenna; and Christopher Dean, Fire Chief for the City of Muskegon Heights. The three joined Promise Authority Board Chair Steve Parker, LongView Management Consulting; Dale Nesbary, President of Muskegon Community College; Lee Coggin, President of Baker College of Muskegon; Cindy Larsen, President of Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce; Robert Jacobs, Senior Vice President of Community Shores Bank; Norton Shores Mayor Gary Nelund, Insurance Agent with State Farm Insurance; Representative Holly Hughes with the Michigan House of Representatives; and Megan Byard-Karaba, MAISD College Access Specialist. The authority board serves as the governing body that must adhere to the development plan for the educational promise.
Other private investors include the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, the Donahue Family, Sheryl and Dan Kuznar, MasterTag of Montague, Newkirk Electric Associates, Steve & Deb Olsen, Parkland Properties of Michigan, Quality Tool & Stamping of Muskegon Heights, Supreme Machined Products of Spring Lake, Tyler Sales, Verplank Trucking Company of Muskegon, and Webb Chemical Service Corporation. The Community Foundation, Kuznars, Quality Tool & Stamping, and Verplank Trucking Company are all gold level funders with a $100,000 investment. Additional dollars continue to be generated through grass roots efforts that include an active GoFundMe page (https://www.gofundme.com/promisescholarship).
“From the first day of preschool, we will work with our children and their families to make going to college a reality,” Severson said.
New Board Member Bios:
Laurel Zwit, Realtor with Greenridge Realty, is a graduate of Muskegon Community College and the U.S. Brokers Institute. Her professional careers over the last 34 years include nursing, owning and operating a child care facility, and for the last 15 years selling real estate in West Michigan. In 2015, Zwit earned the distinction of being the #1 Greenridge agent for sales volume in Muskegon County. She and her husband Tim reside in Whitehall. Their five children graduated from Whitehall District Schools.
John Swanson, President of Swanson Pickle Company of Ravenna, is a graduate of Ravenna Public Schools and Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 2014, the Ravenna Community Educational Foundation selected Swanson for the annual Distinguished Alumni Award. He is an active leader in the Ravenna community with the Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, and High School Sports Hall of Fame. He has also served in leadership roles for several years on the Ravenna Public Schools and MAISD boards of education, and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. John and his wife Mary reside in Ravenna. Their three children graduated from Ravenna Public Schools.
Christopher Dean, Fire Chief for the City of Muskegon Heights, has been with the Muskegon Heights Fire Department for the past 20 years. He grew up in Muskegon Heights until he was 13-years-old and then moved to the City of Muskegon. He attended Muskegon Community College and graduated from the National Fire Academy in Emmetsburg, Maryland. Some of Dean’s work in his 20 years with Muskegon Heights includes serving on the Muskegon Heights Police Department’s auto theft unit conducting arson, theft and fraud investigations. He has received a number of public safety awards including two awards for firefighter of the year. Dean is a member of Muskegon County’s hazardous materials response team and instructs hazardous materials, firefighter and command training.
Christopher Dean, Fire Chief for the City of Muskegon Heights
John Swanson, President of Swanson Pickle Company of Ravenna
Laurel Zwit, Realtor with Greenridge Realty