College may seem far away to first graders and their families, but this fall, Porter County will bring post-secondary education and careers front of mind through a collaborative effort called “The Promise.” The program makes educational savings a reality by helping families start a CollegeChoice 529 Direct Savings account through their school, seeding the account with an initial investment from a local sponsor, and engaging the community to match deposits that the students, families, and champions all contribute to the account. Porter County is honored to be one of four new communities to launch the Promise program, with the support of Promise Indiana and the Indiana Education Savings Authority. Bob Wanek, CEO of the Valparaiso Family YMCA, and Bill Higbie, CEO of the Porter County Community Foundation, have led the local effort to bring “The Promise” to Porter County.
During school registration, The Promise helps families take that first step to start saving, while also integrating college and career discovery activities in the classroom. Pilot counties select a cohort of students to participate, based on community size. The Promise Porter County Steering Committee consisting of local partners including school districts, the community foundation, local businesses and government, economic development groups, and nonprofits, has selected all first graders in the seven county school corporations for the launch. The generous support of Urschel Laboratories will make it possible for every first grade student to begin the school year with their own college savings account. There will also be an opportunity for those enrolled to invite champions—friends, family members, neighbors, coaches, and teachers—to invest in their college savings accounts. A coalition of local partners, including 1st Source Bank, Stewart and Kathryn McMillan, Thorgren Tool and Molding, Porter Health Care System, and the Porter County Community Foundation, will provide a matching deposit to the student’s college savings account during a prescribed period of time.
Youth in the program not only build assets for post-secondary education and learn about college and careers, but they also visit a college campus for a day of interactive learning and dynamic hands-on experiences called “Walk Into My Future.” Valparaiso University will host the event this fall, with college students and faculty leading campus tours and activity stations for elementary-aged youth.
Research from the Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion at the University of Kansas shows that youth with a college savings account in their name are between three and four and half times more likely to go to college than those without an account. CollegeChoice 529 Direct Savings accounts can be used at any eligible institution—2-year community colleges, 4-year colleges and universities, even trade and technical schools.
"It was evident that the team from Porter County had the drive and partnerships to make this a success for the students and families in their community,” said Phil Maurizi, VP of Operations for Promise Indiana. “We look forward to working with all the collaborators to achieve absolute success in their first year, but also to making the Promise program better and stronger with their innovation. Their work will impact not only local youth, but communities around the state of Indiana.”
To date, over 10,000 youth around the state have started a CollegeChoice 529 direct savings account through the Promise program. To learn more visit www.PromiseIndiana.org. To get involved with Promise Porter County, contact Julie Giorgi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 219-462-4185 ext. 267.