This spring, the Holland Zeeland Promise was once again able to offer eight new scholarships to a diverse group of talented, motivated students.

And we were able to do because of the generous $100,000 donation given last year and which we are spreading over four years, as well as another substantial matching gift from Herman Miller Cares. Added to the continuing donations of almost 100 other local donors we were able to disperse almost $220,000 in scholarship money this year.

The Holland/Zeeland Promise is a “last dollar” scholarship (after all other grants and scholarships) intended to give students a chance to fulfill their dream of further education without incurring crushing student debt!

And the HZ Promise scholarship is a continuing scholarship – covering each student’s remaining costs for tuition, books and room and board until they graduate.

In addition to our eight new students we continue to support 14 other students for a total of 22 current HZ Promise students. (Since 2010 we have supported 33 students – 11 of whom have graduated! Maintaining our goal of a 90% graduation rate. Far above the average graduation rate of of 50% for all those who enter college and the 10% graduation rate for first generation students (to date our students are primarily first generation students.)

We’re also excited about a continuing, supportive affiliation with Herman Miller. This year two Herman Miller employees offered recipients an interview training. A number of our soon to be juniors and seniors took advantage of this chance to learn what employers will be looking for in their resumes and have their current resumes evaluated. They also learned important skills for the “phone interviews” that many jobs will now require.

Introducing our eight 2017 recipients

From Holland High School
  • Arely – will be attending Grand Valley with her sites set on a Masters in Occupational Therapy.
  • Freddie – heads to the University of Michigan, intending to major in psychology.
  • Marita – also heads to the University of Michigan where she will be seeking a major in biopsychology, cognition and neuroscience.
From West Ottawa ­
  • Justin – A West Ottawa graduate attending Grand Valley State University in the fall is also hoping to major in psychology.
  • Taylor K –  will be attending Michigan State University pursuing a degree in human biology.
  • Taylor W – will begin her academic journey at Grand Rapids Community College, seeking course work which will lead to a major in either education or human resources.
From Black River High School
  • Marisol – our first graduate from Holland’s Black River High School heads to Ferris State University in the fall, hoping to gain a degree in child development and early childhood education.
From Zeeland East High School
  • Micah – has been accepted at Michigan State University for a unique program offered in conjunction with Lansing Community College to pursue a major in agriculture industry.

We are also delighted to announce that all of our 2013 recipients have graduated. This brings our total number of graduates to 11! We continue to meet our goal of a 90% graduation rate – well beyond the success rate for many scholarship programs.

This year’s graduates are:

  • Yadah Ramirez – with a degree from the University of Michigan in bio-psychology, cognition and neuroscience. Currently she has taken a two year position with College Advising Corporation, giving back to her community by encouraging other students like herself to attend college. After that commitment is completed she is hoping for a research position in biology.
  • Rogelio Padron – also with a degree from the University of Michigan with a degree in Movement Science who is currently working in a nursing home, taking a “gap” year off to earn money before attending graduate school to become a physical therapist.

We want our students to graduate without incurring crushing student loan debt. Want to be able to offer those whose financial challenge is greater, what many of us were able to do for our own children. But the greater dream is that one day all students will be able to graduate without crushing student debt as students of a generation ago were able to do.

Our dream is to do what parents of the 19th century did. Realizing their children needed more education in order to qualify for jobs in the new industrial age they formed a grass roots movement to make universal K-12 education a possibility. At the time it seemed like an impossible dream. Now we take free and universal high school education for granted, believe it is a right, not a privilege.

In the 21st century – it is college or technical training that is critical. The HZ Promise is a part of a new grass roots movement, making it possible for students today to have what so many of us from earlier generations had – an opportunity for an affordable education that can lead to a fulfilling career and a better chance to part of a thriving America.

Congratulations new recipients and new graduates!

To those who have graduated always be proud that “Yes you did!

For those just beginning or still continuing your education we say again “Yes you can!”