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The Power of a Promise

Educatiion and Economic Renewal in Kalamazoo

Michelle Miller-Adams

Publication Year: 2009

When a group of anonymous donors announced in 2005 that they would send every graduate of this midsized public school district to college for free, few within or outside Kalamazoo, Michigan, understood the magnitude of the gesture. Now, in the first comprehensive account of the Kalamazoo Promise, Michelle Miller-Adams charts its initial impact as well as its potential to bring about fundamental economic and social change in a community hurt by job loss, depopulation, and racial segregation.

Published by: W.E. Upjohn Institute

Title Page

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pp. iii

Copyright page

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pp. iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. ix-xi

This story began for me at 7:59 a.m. on November 11, 2005, minutes after taking my daughter to preschool in our hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Tuning in to the local public radio station at the top of the hour, I was surprised and a bit puzzled to hear that the superintendent of the Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS)...

Part 1 - Origins

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Ch 1 - A Not-So -Simple Gift

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pp. 1-27

The crowd that gathered inside Kalamazoo’s Chenery Auditorium on November 15, 2005, was humming with excitement. Hundreds of students, parents, teachers, and administrators had come to celebrate the news that a group of anonymous donors had pledged to provide full college scholarships to every graduate of the Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) for decades to come. ...

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Ch 2 - What Came Before

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pp. 29-58

Why did the donors behind the Kalamazoo Promise believe there was the need for such a program in their community, and why did they choose this particular approach? An examination of the region’s economic and social history sheds some light on both questions. But there is an equally compelling reason for surveying the history of Kalamazoo...

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Ch 3 - The Kalamazoo Promise in Context

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pp. 59-99

When the Kalamazoo Promise was announced, it was widely heralded as the only program of its kind. Skeptics have asked if this is indeed the case, noting a mind-boggling array of scholarship programs, from the $1 billion Gates Millennium Scholars program for minority students to statewide merit scholarship programs, such as the Georgia...

Part 2 - Impact

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Ch 4 - The Challenge of Community Alignment

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pp. 103-140

When the Kalamazoo Promise was announced, the community’s initial response of “Wow!” soon gave way to a collective “What now?” As it became clear that the anonymous donors were genuinely intent on remaining anonymous, this question took on added urgency. It was widely understood that the scholarship program was only a part of what...

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Ch 5 - Impact on Students and Schools

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pp. 141-175

In the months following the unveiling of the Kalamazoo Promise, a growing number of communities, large and small, announced plans to develop their own programs inspired by what was happening in Kalamazoo. The first cities to signal their intentions did so only a few months after the introduction of the scholarship program. ...

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Ch 6 - Prospects for Economic Change

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pp. 177-201

While the Kalamazoo Promise has had an immediate effect on students and the schools, its influence on the local and regional economy is a longer-term proposition. The scholarship program was introduced at a time when economic trends in the state of Michigan were extremely negative, and this broader environment has thus far overshadowed...

Part 3 - Looking Forward

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Ch 7 - Assessing the Impact of the Kalamazoo Promise

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pp. 205-223

It was a “perfect storm” of reasons that brought Gary and Katie Swartz to Kalamazoo in August 2006. Gary, a southwest Michigan native, and Katie, originally from the Chicago area, met at Michigan State University in the 1990s. Their jobs took them to Portland, Oregon, where Katie headed a nonprofit mentoring program...


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pp. 225-236

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The Author

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pp. 237

Dr. Michelle Miller-Adams has been a visiting scholar at the W.E. Upjohn Institute since January 2006. She is an expert on asset-building strategies and the author of Owning Up: Poverty, Assets, and the American Dream (Brookings Institution Press, 2002). She received a PhD in political science and a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University...


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pp. 239-255

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About the Institute

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pp. 257

The W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research is a nonprofit research organization devoted to finding and promoting solutions to employment-related problems at the national, state, and local levels. It is an activity of the W.E. Upjohn Unemployment Trustee Corporation, which was established in 1932 to administer a fund set aside by Dr. W.E. Upjohn...

E-ISBN-13: 9780880994354
E-ISBN-10: 0880994355
Print-ISBN-13: 9780880993395
Print-ISBN-10: 0880993391

Page Count: 274
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: First