'Gift Of Hope' For Kalamazoo Youth

Loy Norrix high school in Kalamazoo, Mich., might look like any high school in the country. Except for one thing: These kids just found out they don't have to pay for college.

"Before this, I wasn't even planning on going to college," high school student Evan Fricke tells CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers. "Now I have a new thing to look forward to in life."

It's difficult enough to imagine someone paying the college tuition for a student they have never met. Now try to imagine paying the tuition for 10,000 of them. That's exactly what an anonymous group of donors has promised to do for every public school student in Kalamazoo.

"This is the great gift of hope," says Dr. Janice Brown, Superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools. "This is the great gift of encouragement, and there is no turning back."

The program is called the Kalamazoo Promise. It's purpose is to restore hope and commitment in a community that's lost 30,000 manufacturing jobs over the last five years and where 50 percent of the students live below the poverty level.

"When you're worried about the next meal and your parents are getting laid off from their jobs, it's hard to think about the future and college," said Ronald Kitchens, CEO of Southwest Michigan First bank. "But now somebody's said, 'We believe in you.'"

There's nothing fuzzy about Kalamazoo's new math. Simply stated, the more time you put in, the more you get out. Enroll in the program in ninth grade and 65 percent of your college tuition is guaranteed. For fifth graders, that number jumps to 85 percent. And for this year's kindergarteners? Well, they don't have to pay a dime.

Like a lot of 5-year-olds, Aaron Fox's career plans are a little vague. What does he want to do when he grows up?

"Go to college, get a job and make lots and lots of money," Fox said.

But his 15-year-old brother Antwon has more solid plans. He wants to be an engineer. Their sister, Antoneesha, is a senior wants to be a doctor. For their parents, college was always a priority, but paying for it was going to be problem.

Wouldn't the recipients like to know who's behind the anonymous donation?

"It would be nice, but it doesn't matter," said their mother, Annette Fox. "It doesn't matter. We know that God touched the heart of men."

It is a gift that will make a difference for generations for come.
  • Christine Lagorio

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