Promised: 55 students become first to earn Citizen Promise grants

Published on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 20:03 - Written by Faith Harper, fharper@tylerpaper.com

 

The thought of funding college used to be stressful for Rusk ISD senior Cameron Franks.

“Staring out my freshman year, I prayed, ‘God give me a sign on where you want me to go and what you want me to do,’ and he sparked an amazing fire that will burn inside my heart thought my education experience,” he said.

In February, a partnership was forged that would pay for two years of classes at Tyler Junior College, for Franks and 55 of his classmates.

The Rusk TJC Citizens Promise grants any Rusk ISD high school senior in the top 50 percent of the class up to $4,000 a year ($2,000 a semester) for two years to attend Tyler Junior College. There is a list of criteria to qualify, but the scholarship applies to the main campus and the vocational programs at its West Campus.

The program is funded by gifts and pledges from Citizens 1st Bank, The Perkins Family Foundation and others, and is a partnership between TJC, the TJC Foundation, Rusk ISD, the bank and the foundation. It took five years of planning to create.

Franks said he always was a hard worker in class, but it took on a new force when the news broke in February. He said he and his twin brother have a friendly competition for good grades, and Franks edged out his brother this year, completing high school one class rank ahead.

He plans on studying business and minoring in management but wants to return to East Texas once he earns his diploma.

“I want to be responsible, and I want to take care of my family because they have done so much for me,” he said.

A special ceremony was held Tuesday in the Rusk ISD auditorium to formally congratulate the first group of honorees on their journey from being a Rusk Eagle to an Apache.

“We want you to do is blaze a trail …” high school principal Scott Schwartz said. “You are the ones that will set the tone. This trail is going to be blazed by you, and it’s very important to take this trail seriously.”

Senior Erin Flowers said it is a commitment she was serious about. She intends to attend the Baylor College of Medicine and happily changed her plans after hearing about the college’s Baylor Bound program.

Kadeja Jefferson plans enrolling in the dental hygienist program at TJC, but her end goal is to become a dentist and own a dental practice.

“I’m going to try to work hard and finish school and try to make a good example for the kids at Rusk that want to apply and get the scholarship,” she said.

Someone with an associate’s degree has an earning potential of $50,000 more those who only achieve a high school diploma, said Charles Hassell, Citizen’s 1st Bank’s executive vice president of finance and accounting and executive director of the Rusk Economic Development Corporation.

“Now make that $1 million — dream it, believe it and make it a reality,” he said.