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One community's promise makes kids' college dreams happen
Community members of Baldwin, Michigan, created the Baldwin Promise in 2009, a fund to pay $5,000 for Baldwin students to attend Michigan colleges. - photo by Payton Davis
For the 2015 graduating class of Baldwin Senior High in Baldwin, Michigan, the pursuit of academic excellence started with a promise.

The Atlantic reported that only 12 of 32 students who graduated from Baldwin High in 2005 enrolled in college.

Just two of those students earned bachelor's degrees.

But with the introduction of the Baldwin Promise in 2009, a fund that offers to pay $5,000 a year for any student from Baldwin to attend college in Michigan, nearly everybody who graduated this spring is enrolling in college, according to The Atlantic.

According to The Independent, now-deceased Baldwin resident Richard Simonson came up with the Baldwin Promise idea by suggesting "the people of Baldwin each pay $500 to put into a fund for the town's children's university fees, as a way of investing in the community."

Soon, a campaign helped secure $120,000 for the cause.

Brian McVicar reported for MLive the promise is one of 10 promise zones across Michigan. These zones "increase post-secondary attainment in a county where more than 25 percent of residents live below the poverty line and only 8.4 percent of residents age 25 and older have a bachelor's degree or higher," McVicar wrote.

In Baldwin, 27.9 percent of residents live below the poverty level and 8 percent of people have a bachelor's degree, according to census data.

Sending the community's youth off to college is nice, but most importantly, the promise changed the way Baldwin citizens look at higher education, resident Ellen Kerans told The Atlantic.

"We thought it was the most important initiative we'd ever have, and we had to support it big," Kerans said. "It would revitalize the students. It would make them feel like they have a promise, they really could go to college."

Recently, Baldwin High added an AP class and an opportunity for students to dual enroll in West Shore Community College, which graduate Alec Wroblewski told The Atlantic helped change attitudes and prepare him for college this fall.

Wroblewski took advantage of the dual enrollment program and was the first Baldwin student to be accepted to the University of Michigan in more than 10 years, though he chose to enroll at Eastern Michigan University.

Without a certain promise seven years ago, it might not have happened, he said.

"Things did change in school. Kids started to want to go to college and the teachers knew that and then the kids started to realize, We have to learn that to be ready for the harder classes in college, Wroblewski told The Atlantic. Thats the biggest change here.
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