By Ashley Gibbard
Holt Journal Staff Reporter
In 2009 Holt Public Schools with the help of the surrounding community and Lansing Community College, wanted to make it possible for students to further their education, even if they didn’t have the financial means.
That’s when then-Holt Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Johnny Scott, along with his board members founded the H.O.L.T. scholarship program, with the first scholarships being given out in 2011.
H.O.L.T. stands for Helping Others Learn Together. This fund will help children who are at risk of not furthering their education access two years of free tuition at Lansing Community College in exchange for graduating from Holt High School.
According to the H.O.L.T Scholarship Program information, a student is eligible based on the U.S. Department of Education’s criteria for at-risk students.
The U.S. Department of Education website states that the criteria includes race, whether the student live in a single parent home and whether the student’s family income is on or below the poverty line.
The students are identified by a committee of Holt educators in the fall of their seventh grade year. The goal is to add 125 students to the program each year. Then the student and parents will sign a contract agreeing to the requirements of the program.
Once in the program, a success coordinator/counselor in the school meet with students on a monthly basis, records progress on the above objectives, and also has each student participate in at least three after-school activities — mentoring, visitations to LCC, or community business.
Jeff Blohm, one of the community members on the board of directors, talks about how the community funds this program.
“We give the scholarship out when we have the funds to pay for the two years at LCC which is $2,500,” Blohm said. “It usually ends up being five eighth-graders annually,” he said. “The funding for the program is all through donations from business, staff, the community, from Ruth’s Race and some other fund raisers that get held every year. We also write grants.”
“In fact, the PNC Foundation has supported us annually for the past three years with a $5,000 grant. The community also realizes tax-deductible benefit from the Capital Region Community Foundation,” he said.
Holt Public Schools Board of Education Vice President Debbie Roeske is on the H.O.L.T Scholarship board of directors and she shed some light on what exactly the program is doing for the students involved.
“In total we educate about 5,800 yearly,” Roeske said. “Of our seventh through 12th-graders, we have 31.8 percent of them on the free and reduced lunch program.
“Only half of our current senior class applied for college. The evaluations that we have made so far show that the program positively improves the member’s attendance, grades and confidence on a yearly basis. Eighty percent of the students in the program will complete the two-year LCC program.”
Current Holt Public School Superintendent David Hornak shares what he hopes to do with the program now that he has taken over.
“The scholarship is still growing,” Hornak said. “I know they have a promise in Kalamazoo where if you stay in the district for your entire school career they will help you out in college. This is focused on an at-risk population that might not otherwise go to college. We are growing the funds to hopefully keep expanding that to a broader population of students.”