Last week, I watched a documentary on CNN about college and student debt called Ivory Tower. While hearing the tales of students going into debt to have a higher education, I realized how incredibly fortunate I am for the Kalamazoo Promise.
The scholarship was announced in November of my senior year of high school: any student who attended Kalamazoo Public Schools would get a percentage of their college paid for based on how long they were in the school system.
Since I began in Kindergarten, 100 percent of my tuition would be covered by the anonymous donors’ gift. I was planning to go out of state. Those plans quickly changed and I went to Western Michigan University.
Without the liberal arts or the funding from the Kalamazoo Promise, I don’t think I would have ended up where I am today. The Promise allowed me to feel financially secure to pursue the studies that interest me (Latin and Greek) without feeling I was wasting the money my grandparents saved up.
But more important than the credits or degree was the freedom it gave me to pursue my interests outside of the classroom.
After two years of studying the Classics (and having double the amount of credits I needed for a Latin major) I wanted to try something different. I remember sitting in the library, translating Ovid, looking outside and wanting something more “current” in my life.
I quit my job at the university's bookstore and started writing as much as I could for the Western Herald, the student newspaper. There was a spark from the first story. Soon, I was skipping classes to cover stories. My senior year, I became news editor of the Herald and if I wasn't reporting on a story or editing copy, I was trying to stay awake in a history class about Medieval history.
The Promise allowed me the comfort and security to pursue journalism though the Western Herald. I was in my third year of college and didn’t want to switch majors.
So I while I wasn’t taking classes or actually "using" the scholarship to earn a degree in journalism, I was able to use the financial security of the scholarship to learn by experience.
After graduating, I had internships and was ultimatly hired by the Kalamazoo Gazette and then MLive Media Group.
It's been more than four years since I’ve graduated college, and I’m only now fully understanding how much the Promise has influenced my path in life. It allowed me to pursue my passions in and out of the classroom, and enter a profession without a large burden of debt.
For that freedom, I am thankful today and will be for the rest of my life.