KPS Grads in Action: Promise Employees
A Group of Promise Scholars Is now Promise Employees
The Kalamazoo Promise recently hired six Kalamazoo Public Schools graduates for key positions within the organization.
“I think we want to set an example for the community about employing these students as they complete their credentials,” said Bob Jorth, executive director of the Kalamazoo Promise. “Hiring them helps us be more relevant to the population we’re serving. It puts us generationally closer to the students were serving.”
The Kalamazoo Promise is the scholarship program that covers in-state college tuition and fees for KPS graduates who live in the district.
High School: Kalamazoo Central, Class of 2008.
Degrees: Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Operation Engineering from the University of Michigan, 2013. Master of Arts in Counseling from Central Michigan University, 2017
Promise Position: As a Promise Pathway Coach, I support Promise students in personalizing their Promise, helping them connect with resources to both explore what they want their path to be and how the Promise can help them on their journey. This includes working with students on Promise paperwork, college applications, career exploration, financial aid and connecting with opportunities in the community.
How did the Promise make a difference in your college going experience? The Promise made it possible for me to graduate with my bachelor’s degree with no debt. While I earned a bachelor’s in engineering, my values and passion took me in a different direction professionally after graduation. I discovered what I was really passionate about was working with students and empowering them to find their own path. With no debt, graduate school was much more accessible to me financially.
What experiences in KPS helped prepare you for college success? In my time at KPS, I was involved in a lot of different programs and activities, including AP classes, attending the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science center, sports, and musicals. I kept very busy in high school and developed time management and study skills before I got to college.
What do you think the Promise means for Kalamazoo? I think the Promise is a visible, impactful investment in our community that will help Kalamazoo to continue to grow and develop as a strong and vibrant community. By investing directly in our young people, we are demonstrating the power of individuals to move a community forward. I hope Promise alumni will continue to return to Kalamazoo and work as young professionals in our home community.
High School: Kalamazoo Central, Class of 2012.
Degree: B.S. Food Industry Management, Michigan State University, 2016
Promise Position: Promise Pathway Coach at Phoenix High School and Kalamazoo Innovative Learning Program. I work with students from diverse backgrounds to help personalize their Kalamazoo Promise scholarship, look at post-secondary education, and explore different career options.
How did the Promise make a difference in your college going experience? The Kalamazoo Promise helped me to walk away from college DEBT-FREE.
What experiences in KPS helped prepare you for college success? Some of the experiences that helped me prepare for college were taking advantage of the opportunities offered in KPS — such as AP courses and participating in Education For Employment courses to gain exposure to careers, learn new skills, and ultimately have a better understanding of what I wanted to do in the future.
What does it mean to you to be able to come back to Kalamazoo and work for the Promise? Coming back to Kalamazoo and working for the Promise has been an exciting opportunity to serve my community and feel like I can make a difference. My main goal working with students who will receive the Promise is to be able to inspire students to be self-advocates and to know that when it comes to their education they have a voice and that it matters to their learning.
High School: Kalamazoo Central, Class of 2009.
Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Studies, with a concentration in psychology, Michigan State University, 2016
Promise Position: As a Pathway Coach, I assist Loy Norrix high school seniors as they transition through their final year of high school and into their first year of post-secondary education. This can look very different for each student, ranging from assistance with completing all Promise paperwork and appeals, researching and applying for other scholarships, completing college applications, assistance with FAFSA and having those conversations around “What can/will my life look like after high school?” I also work closely with KVCC and WMU Promise programs to assist with warm hand-offs to those institutions.
What does it mean to you to be able to come back to Kalamazoo and work for the Promise? It feels really good being able to come back and work for the Kalamazoo Promise. In a way, it’s a dream come true. I remember going to the Promise office right after graduation and asking Bob if there was a possibility of creating Promise services at MSU to help students navigate through college. My goal is to see to it that the students I work with succeed. If we continue to lift as we climb, that goal won’t be hard to attain. It will take time and effort, but we will get there.
What do you think the Promise means for Kalamazoo? The Promise means we can create a thriving community that will act as a model for other cities. We’re seeing more economic growth and development with many of the positions being held by Kalamazoo Promise Scholars. The Promise is an investment on human capital, and it’s creating a better standard of living.
High School: Loy Norrix, Class of 2013.
Degree: B.A Political Science University of Michigan, 2017
Promise Position: I am a research analyst at the W.E. Upjohn Institute where I work exclusively on Promise-related projects. I manage a database of Promise students and use various data sources to produce data requests, reports, and larger projects that all revolve around trying to better understand the Promise student population.
What experiences in KPS helped prepare you for college success? Every experience in KPS prepared me for college. I found that I was just as prepared as my peers in college in terms of academics, and I was much more prepared than my peers when it came to real-world issues and viewing problems from multiple angles. The diversity of knowledge and experience that exists within KPS is unmatched.
What does it mean to you to be able to come back to Kalamazoo and work for the Promise? It means everything to be back home working for the Promise. Through my work, I hope to deepen our understanding of Promise students, and help improve rates of college completion by better understanding the barriers that students face.
What do you think the Promise means for Kalamazoo? The Promise means community transformation. This scholarship is a catalyst for transformations in our public schools, our colleges and universities, businesses, public works, and more. I believe we’ve only scratched the surface of what the Promise can do for this community.
High School: Kalamazoo Central, Class of 2014.
Degree: B.S psychology, Western Michigan University, 2018
Promise Position: Reconnection Specialist. In collaboration with Angelita Aguilar, director of credential completion, I help the organization identify, locate, and reconnect students who are eligible but who are not utilizing their Promise scholarship.
How did the Promise make a difference in your college going experience? The Promise removed financial barriers for my family. I am a first-generation college graduate who was able to enjoy the full college experience offered at WMU without the stress of finances.
What experiences in KPS helped prepare you for college success? During my time in KPS, I was challenged by taking AP and honors courses. I was able to dual-enroll at Kalamazoo Valley Community College during my senior year in high school. However, the experiences that prepared me most were those that you will not find on my transcript. I had teachers, administrators, and staff (CIS Site Coordinator, Mrs. Deborah Yarbrough) who loved and adored me. They believed in me, motivated me, supported me, and never let me give up — even when I almost gave up on myself. With the guidance of the amazing souls that helped me through my KPS journey, I learned how to be an advocate, for myself and for others. Most of all, I learned how to be independent and to be a leader. Lastly, I was surrounded by a diverse group of students, teachers, administrators, and staff, and that helped shape me into a well-rounded individual who was prepared to experience the world from many different angles.
What does it mean to you to be able to come back to Kalamazoo and work for the Promise? Since I was born and raised in Kalamazoo, and I attended undergraduate school here, I was eager to move away to experience something different. However, working at the Promise has made me realize that I do not have to leave home to gain new experiences. Most of all, I am excited to inspire the underrepresented students who never thought that they would go to college or believe that the Promise “is not for them.”
Janell ‘Nelly’ Smith
High School: Loy Norrix, Class of 2008.
Degree: Bachelor’s of Business Administration with an emphasis in management from Northwood University, 2013
Promise Position: As the associate administrator, I am the primary person responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Promise scholarship administrative functions.
What experiences in KPS helped prepare you for college success? The KPS experience that helped prepare me for college success was definitely my AP courses in high school — AP English to be exact. I praise Ms. Bowser all the time for how she taught and structured her classroom. She was tough, strict, and stayed on top of us and our work.
What does it mean to you to be able to come back to Kalamazoo and work for the Promise? Working for the Promise is everything to me. My main goal is to keep informing the community that the Promise is still alive, up and running. Many people are uninformed about the Promise. I want to continue getting the word out and providing the right information for the community about the Promise — to let people know that it will be here for a LONG time!!