By Mo Hnatiuk
Holt Journal staff writer
HOLT —Freshman Makayla Kost was in tears the day she found out she would be able to attend college for free.
Kost was just one of the five students in the 2010-2011 inaugural class of seventh graders in the Holt Community School District that received the H.O.L.T. Scholarship.
“The scholarship has given me a stepping stool in knowing what my future holds. Every high schooler wonders, ‘well, what am I going to do,’ so if I didn’t have this I’d probably still be in the same place of ‘what am I going to do, and how am I going to get there,’” Kost said.
Township Supervisor Stuart Goodrich approached Superintendent Dr. Johnny Scott to develop the scholarship three years ago. “He wanted to do something similar to the Lansing Promise and create a promise zone that would ensure to students if they completed or graduated from Holt Public Schools and they wanted to extend their experience beyond at least for two years that we would make a commitment for that to occur,” Scott said.
The H.O.L.T. Scholarship Program, an acronym for Helping Others Learn Together, is a collaborative effort between government, school district, businesses, and the communities within Holt, Michigan. Targeting students in seventh grade, the school district accepts applicants for the program based on financial need.
The inaugural class of recipients includes Makayla Kost, Daisa Clemons, Joshua Golden, Hien Le and Danny Martinez. With the average cumulative student debt in Michigan for a 4-year college program at $24,651*, the H.O.L.T. scholarship seeks to give students, who otherwise could not afford college, an opportunity for higher education.
“I felt so touched that they would pick me out of how many students to have an opportunity like this. Just five students out of all the eighth graders last year who got an opportunity to go to college for two years for free basically,” Kost said. Kost hopes to go to college to become an English and drama teacher.
Daisa Clemons, 14, who describes herself as always smiling and never in trouble, couldn’t wait to tell her mom she received the scholarship. “It would be hard to get the money to pay for college if I didn’t have the scholarship, and this gives me a head-start when I graduate.”
The program works alongside the Lansing Community College, where each student’s scholarship will pay $2,000 each year for two years. For the inaugural class, fundraising began well over a year in advance. The total net assets raised came to $25,787.22 by October 31, 2011, of which $20,000 was distributed evenly among the five students. The remaining $5,787.22 is currently in the program’s account as fundraising continues for this year.
Goodrich says the board’s aspirations for the program would be to offer scholarships to the entire class, but because the program is just beginning they have to start small. Within ten years he hopes they can establish a program similar to the Kalamazoo Promise in which students would be able to attend other colleges instead of only being offered LCC for higher education.
In order to draw in donors, the program paired with the Capital Region Community Foundation. They developed a partner 503 charitable contribution status, which says that if the program houses the funding with the foundation, donors to the program will receive a tax break. Though tax breaks will be ending at the end of the fiscal year, Scott does not expect this to alter donations. He believes donors will see the program as an important cause and give support regardless of a tax break. Donors from the previous year include members of the board such as Dr. Scott, Supervisor Goodrich, Sheriff Wigglesworth, and companies such as Xerox Corp.
The H.O.L.T. Scholarship Program has continued its fundraising in order to offer a scholarship to the upcoming class of seventh grade students, and has a link to the Capital Region website to take donations.
“What we hope to do is plant the seed that hope is there and if [students] continue to go to school and graduate from Holt [with] a desire to have an experience beyond high school, that finances won’t be a barrier,” Scott said.
*mi.gov 2009 statistic