- Hillside Middle School
Pathway Coaches Help Students Navigate Promise Application
The Kalamazoo Promise is a free scholarship — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a little work that goes into ensuring the funds are there and ready to be accessed.
Luckily for students, there is help available to ensure students have everything in order to take advantage of The Promise, the scholarship program that covers tuition and mandatory fees at almost every state college and university for Kalamazoo Public Schools graduates who meet residency and attendance requirements.
Melissa Nesbitt, Trenae Dunigan and DaTavia Moore are the Promise Pathway Coaches. Dunigan works at Kalamazoo Central. Moore is the new coach, hired to serve Loy Norrix High School. Nesbitt, the Pathway Coach manager, serves Phoenix High School, Kalamazoo Innovative Learning Program and the KPS Virtual Program.
The Pathway Coaches program launched in 2019 as a way to better serve the growing number of students taking advantage of the scholarship. Coaches not only help the students register for The Promise, but can offer advice and support for students and families as they figure out graduation requirements, file the FAFSA for federal financial aid, find other scholarships, complete college essays, visit colleges and other key senior year activities.
“We really want to help with anything that will help students progress seamlessly into post secondary, which could be a trade or a community college or a four-year university,” Dunigan said.
Students fall into one of three tiers for the coaches, with Tier 3 students needing little help other than being told to fill out the application form, whereas Tier 1 students may need assistance with educational support, finding support programs in their post-secondary environments, and locating scholarships to help cover the cost of college.
“You may have a student who needs help completing their application.” Nesbitt said. “They don’t know where they’re going to college. We’ll do research together, what is it that you’re interested in, what don’t you want to do,” Nesbitt said. “And, I could have one touchpoint with a student and they’ll be good to go.”
Although The Promise attempts to make the process of applying for and claiming the scholarship as simple as possible, there are some mandatory steps students and families should make sure are completed.
1. Students should register to create an online account at kalamazoopromise.com. Students can create the account their senior year. It helps staff keep track of forms and applications. Later, it will help students keep track of post secondary credits and how much money is still available for student use.
2. Seniors should make sure they complete their Promise application form. Most students will do this at fall registration at school, but some students fall through the cracks. If a student did not complete the form at registration, the forms can be found on The Promise website.
3. Students should complete the college acceptance form, which allows The Promise to access post-secondary school records to ensure students are enrolled full time and maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, which are required to maintain the scholarship.
The coaches are at the schools three days a week, located either in or near the school counseling offices, but those are not the only times coaches are available for consultation. They schedule meetings in the Promise office and are available for calls and emails.
Dunigan and Nesbitt urge students to check in with their school counselors early. The college application process can be overwhelming, so checking in sooner than later may help ease anxiety.
As of the summer of 2021, the Promise has awarded $165 million in scholarships, and Promise Scholars have completed about 3,400 credentials.
And Nesbitt and Dunigan emphasize that even if you’ve missed all of the deadlines earlier in your senior year, haven’t used the Promise scholarship for the last five years, or started a post-secondary program and did not complete it — there may still be time to tap the scholarship.
KPS graduates have up to 10 years after graduating from high school to use the scholarship. Call the office and ask to speak with a coach.
“We can get you reconnected,” Nesbitt said.