Lansing Promise scholarship dinner returns, celebrates students
LANSING — A right-field scoreboard at Jackson Field flashed a list of names all night Thursday.
It wasn’t a listing of baseball players or game scores. Instead, the scoreboard at the home of the Lansing Lugnuts flashed the names of the more than 1,600 Lansing students who have received financial assistance from the Lansing Promise.
Jackson Field played host to the Lansing Promise Dinner. The dinner serves as an annual benefit to support the Lansing Promise, a scholarship program that pays tuition and fees for graduates of a Lansing high school who live in Lansing to take up to 65 credits at Lansing Community College or the equivalent dollar amount toward tuition and Fees at Michigan State University or Olivet College. Davenport University is joining the Lansing Promise as a partnering institution this year.
Since its 2012 inception, 1,622 students have received scholarship assistance and more than 600 have earned degrees, according to Kellie Dean, chairperson of the Lansing Promise Foundation Board and president and CEO of Dean Transportation.
“We believe in these kids,” said Justin Sheehan, executive director of the Lansing Promise. “They are our future.”
Of the Lansing School District class of 2022, 347 are Promise scholars.
“And there are more to come,” said Dean, who is also the Lansing Promise Zone Authority Board’s chairperson. “The state of the promise is simply strong.”
For some Lansing School District graduates, like Kylee Kellett, Lansing Promise meant going to college and not taking on the crushing debt of a college education while exploring possible careers.
After graduating as Sexton High School’s valedictorian in 2016, Kellett was able to earn an associate’s degree thanks to the Lansing Promise’s support.
“It meant I could go to school and wouldn’t have to worry about student loans,” said Kellett, whose art was on display at the Lansing Promise Dinner and whose mural remains on display at Sexton. “It made it a whole lot more comfortable to go to school and to move out and to become a full-fledged adult.”
Because she wasn’t burdened with thousands of dollars in student loan debt, Kellett has been able to afford a house at 22, get married and is now poised to open her own art gallery and tattoo studio.
‘Lansing is special’
The Lansing Promise Dinner celebrated scholars, like Kellett, both past and present. On a more somber note, speakers also recognized the students who wouldn’t be able to go on to college or a career due to death by gun violence or suicide.
The night started with a moment of silence to honor those who have died.
“We know … there’s a lot going on in this city,” Sheehan said. “We’ve had loss due to gun violence, due to hopelessness, due to unjust systems. We don’t have all the answers.”
More: 8 people have been killed in homicides in Lansing in 2022. Here are their stories.
Sheehan and other speakers also recognized the COVID-19 pandemic and the strain it has put on the Lansing community. Thursday’s event served as a celebration coming out of the pandemic, as it was the first Lansing Promise dinner since 2019 after it was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns.
Lansing School District Superintendent Benjamin Shuldiner credited the Lansing Promise for starting the organization that sends so many of his students onto college and into careers.
“This is the Promise. This is an organization whose entire job is to say, ‘if you graduate from a Lansing school and you live in the Lansing district, we’re going to help you go to college,'” Shuldiner said. “We’re going to help you go to trade school. We’re going to help your life get better. That’s incredible.”
“Lansing is special.”
To donate to Lansing Promise or learn more about the program, go to www.lansingpromise.org.
Contact Mark Johnson at (517) 377-1026 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @ByMarkJohnson.