A scholarship program designed to transform lives and communities is possible in this area and The East Texas Communities Foundation wants people to know about it.
The foundation has planned the East Texas Promise Scholarship Seminar for interested funders, educators, economic development specialists, business leaders and more.
A promise scholarship program provides community-based scholarships that comprehensively include a great majority of the graduating seniors from the included high schools.
A recent local example is the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise program announced earlier this month.
That program grants any Rusk ISD high school senior in the top 50 percent of their class up to $4,000 a year for two years to attend Tyler Junior College.
The Citizens 1st Bank, The Perkins Family Foundation and other entities provided the funding and pledges to make the program possible.
Foundation President Kyle Penney said the goal of the upcoming seminar is to try to help people understand this philanthropic opportunity.
If it’s a community that has decided education is important and the financial resources are available, the community can set up a scholarship fund, he said.
“Our goal would be to inspire some communities to do this, that this might be what it takes in certain communities to turn things around for them,” Penney said, adding that a promise scholarship program contributes to good schools and an educated workforce, which in turn attract businesses.
Promise programs have different models. On one end of the spectrum is the “educational safety net” in which donors contribute funds but they are only awarded once the student has secured all the funds they can through other means.
On the other end of the spectrum is the generous gift of education, which can go as far as awarding the students funds to pay for a full four years of school possibly at a private university.
Some promise programs require the funds to be used at a particular institution, as is the case with the Rusk TJC program.
Others such as the El Dorado Promise in Arkansas allow students to use funds at any school they want, but the maximum scholarship amount they will receive is equal to the highest annual resident tuition at an Arkansas public university, according to the program website.
The seminar will feature speakers who have experience with some of the different models. Murphy Oil Corp. Chairman Claiborne Deming is scheduled to be the keynote speaker. Murphy Oil provided funding for the El Dorado Promise program in Arkansas.
Sylvia Thompson, director of the El Dorado Promise, also is scheduled to speak as is Jason Jones, executive director of the Arkadelphia Promise.
The free seminar will include about four sessions plus the luncheon session. Sessions will address what promise scholarships are, the potential economic and community effects, criteria to consider, and funding and staffing requirements.
The seminar is open to interested funders, corporate and community leaders, economic development specialists, scholarship coordinators and public school and college administrators.
Ideally, a community would send three to six interested community leaders to this event.
The event is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. April 14 at The University of Texas at Tyler Ornelas Activity Center, 3402 Old Omen Road, in Tyler. Seating is limited. Call 866-533-3823 to RSVP by April 4.
Staff Writer Faith Harper contributed to this report.