Since 2012, 1,622 Lansing Promise scholars have started a college career — a simple and profound statement that Lansing’s young people see success after high school as their reality.
A place-based scholarship program offering tuition assistance for post-secondary education to all eligible high school graduates within Lansing School District boundaries, the Lansing Promise partners with Lansing Community College, Michigan State University, Olivet College and Davenport University to support college or skilled trade experiences for Lansing’s youth.
More than that, the Promise leads the work to raise the next generation of Lansing students in a community that believes in them, imagines their bright futures and gives in support of those goals.
Here’s what six people close to that work have to say about how to get it done.
Championing Lansing’s youth starts with belief
We believe in the inherent worth of every young person in this city. This year, we hold tight to the memory of all the young people stolen from this world far too soon. We mourn alongside the mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and friends who have lost a loved one to violence, hopelessness, sickness or a broken system. And as we walk with the memory and the loss, we also carry belief, confidence and love for our future neighbors, our future friends, our future professionals, our future scholars.
You do not walk alone. We see you, we hear you and we love you. We promise to champion your babies and rewrite the narrative for all of Lansing’s babies.
The question is simple: What are we as a community of caring adults willing to do if we are to see the dreams and efforts of our young people come to fruition? They’re here and they are ready to take the next step in their lives, envisioning and working towards their ideal future.
We are being called to action — it is up to each of us to identify what we can do for our students and graduates. We must be champions who believe education changes lives. Who believe that unwavering encouragement coupled with access to higher education, and relevant employment opportunities after high school can and will fundamentally shift the way our young people see their futures. Futures we demand each and every single one of them see.
When we believe in the inherent worth of Lansing’s babies, we have no choice but to act accordingly. Join us as we imagine a community where every young person has the opportunity to dream, the ability to thrive, and the love, support and investment needed to build a brighter future.
Justin Sheehan is executive director of the Lansing Promise.
Inspire a love of knowledge in Lansing’s young people
“A mind is a terrible thing to waste”— those words I heard from the United Negro College Fund in my younger days are true! Our minds help us hope, dream and imagine the possibilities awaiting us. I graduated from Sexton High School in 1972. I believed in the potential of Lansing’s youth then and I believe in it today, especially in my role as a grandmother.
After their mother's death, I raised my three grandsons, Monta, Kemar and Kimani — all of whom are Lansing Promise scholars. Knowing they had a scholarship awaiting them upon graduating from Everett High School helped keep them on track academically.
Monta is now a senior at Hampton University, majoring in aviation management. Kemar is a sophomore at Western Michigan University in the Lee Honors College, majoring in musical theater. Kimani is a sophomore at Michigan State University in the Lyman Briggs College, majoring in biopsychology. From the start, I have helped them to see that learning is cool! I am so proud of their accomplishments and dedication to furthering their education — something the Lansing Promise helped facilitate.
As a big kid and lifetime learner, my vision for young people is to embrace healthy, life-giving knowledge. Knowledge is power — knowing how to integrate knowledge into your daily life and community creates new pathways into the future. Education is the means to sustain personal and economic freedoms. Young people can chart their own path choosing to learn in ways that uplifts and empowers them.
I hope our story will encourage other families to embrace the support of the Lansing Promise as they raise their young people.
Rev. Dr. Versey Williams is a Lansing Promise volunteer and J.W. Sexton High School alumna.
Mentorship is crucial to student success
Mentorship helps Lansing’s young people make informed and supported decisions through our lived experiences. In my years as a mentor in our community, I have held on to two ideas: The need for growth drives behavior and autonomous motivation is important.
These assumptions are rooted in the self-determination theory, which suggests an individual has three universal psychological needs that must be fulfilled to become self-determined. When students feel competent, connected and autonomous, the control and self-directed actions students take as a result brings about real change. As mentors, we can and should create the spaces for these experiences to help students meet those needs. We can and must facilitate learning new skills, offer autonomy and ensure they have a real sense of belonging.
We want our young people to feel the satisfaction of being in control of their decisions. As mentors we try to help young people think strategically about their decisions. We can’t make those decisions for young people; we try to hold onto them long enough that decision making gets better and they make a positive paradigm shift.
In the absence of mentorship, young people miss out on valuable prospects of learning about mistakes and achievements we’ve experienced over time. Most importantly though, without mentors, young people miss out on the opportunity for lifelong sustainable relationships.
That knowledge and those relationships are crucial as Lansing’s youth make decisions along their path toward success — success they deserve with the support of our community and organizations like the Lansing Promise.
DeYeya Jones serves the Lansing Promise Foundation Board, the Lansing Alumni Chapter Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and the Bring It In Foundation.
We need to know you’re here; we need to know you believe
As a college adviser, I get the chance to talk to my younger self through the students I am lucky to work with every day at Everett High School.
Lansing youth need to hear and believe things like: “Your path may not be linear, but with dedication and trusting the process you can achieve all of your goals.”
“Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.”
“There are a lot of people supporting you and wanting to see you succeed — rely on them whenever you might feel down.”
I know this because I graduated from Everett as a Lansing Promise scholar in 2016.
The Promise enabled me to pursue a higher education and receive my bachelor’s degree in social work from MSU in 2020. I have grown so much as a professional because of the Promise and have established great connections to continue moving towards the career path I want for myself.
Having lived this makes it easier for me to serve my students and help them through their process of pursuing a post secondary education. I have not only been able to reflect on my own journey to help my students, but also lean on the help of the Promise team so we can all build a support network to help them become the best version of themselves.
I want the Lansing community to know that Promise scholars are capable of achieving anything they set their minds to. They are driven, motivated and capable of reaching their goals. Lansing Promise scholars have so many skills and ideas just waiting to be shared — they are ready to do so much good in this world.
And the amazing thing is that there are so many people that want to help them succeed and support their goals. That’s you reading this article. So, go out and tell your younger self the things you needed to hear and help raise up the next generation.
Salma Torres is a college adviser in the MSU College Advising Corps serving at Everett High School, from which she graduated as a Lansing Promise Scholar in 2016.
Our business community must invest in its students
Our organizations believe that Lansing’s business community plays a critical role in investing in our students. We’ve seen talented scholars choose to leave the region if opportunities aren’t available for long term career options locally. Together, we have the opportunity to retain the needed talent and expertise in the Lansing region. Here’s how:
We have an opportunity to cultivate talent through internship programs, co-ops, mentorship of students and apprenticeships. Investing in our scholars through these avenues helps to retain the needed talent and expertise in the Lansing region, and gives local businesses ready access to a pool of the in demand skills needed to help drive their organizations forward.
We have an opportunity to be connectors in the community so we are leveraging and accelerating good works for our students. We can provide sustainable support for this generation and the next generation of students by calling on our community resources.
We have an opportunity to support the whole child, not just their academic needs. Our search for qualified candidates will only become more difficult if we do not invest in the near term and long term future now.
It is important that we acknowledge the value of programs like the Lansing Promise today and then become active partners in creating the talent base that we all need in order to grow and thrive tomorrow. Yes, financial support is vital, but it is just the first step. Engaging with, believing in and ultimately hiring Lansing Promise scholars as they progress along their career path is how we make good on our promise.
Carmen L. Argersinger is manager of strategic partnerships at Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Michelle Massey is vice president of community engagement and customer support at TechSmith. Abel Travis is vice president of fundamental underwriters at AF Group.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: The Lansing Promise, raising the next generation to succeed