Rockford recently lost a gifted visionary educator, Jan Jones. Following retirement from Rockford Public Schools District 205, Jan devoted much time to leading Rockford Promise (RP). RP is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization with a vision to provide scholarships for every graduate of District 205 to pursue post secondary education in any Illinois accredited institution of higher learning, including trade schools.
Jan knew that many students believe they have little hope of pursuing post secondary education because of financial limitations. Jan knew that RP’s success will significantly elevate hope for all students.
Jan knew that, like Kalamazoo, MI, where the Kalamazoo Promise has been granting scholarships to substantially all graduating public school students since 2007, families will be encouraged to have their children attend District 205 schools. The W.E Upjohn Institute for Employment Research has identified 22 promise programs in 12 states that are improving their communities by providing scholarships for their public school graduates. Jan knew that a thriving public school system is vital to the health of our community.
Many initiatives are underway, generating more excitement and enthusiasm about District 205 than have existed for several decades. RP’s vision is perfectly aligned with the “Readiness Rocks!” initiative and Assistant Superintendent, Matt Vosberg, is a board member of RP. Jan knew that RP contributes to the positive momentum that is clearly underway.
Jan knew that a better educated workforce will attract higher paying jobs to Rockford. Woodward is making a substantial investment in a facility that will require hundreds of educated employees for their well paying positions. Other employers will likewise consider locating or remaining in the Rockford area if there is a sufficiently educated workforce.
Last year, District 205 engaged Northern Illinois University to develop an estimated impact of adopting a College for All program in Rockford. NIU’s analysis concludes “for every dollar invested, an estimated $131 would be generated in additional lifetime earnings, increased local expenditures, and avoided costs of social programs and incarceration.” Few investments provide such a spectacular return. Jan knew the benefits will be dramatic.
RP has started on a small scale. Using funds donated by individuals and through fundraising activities, RP selected seven scholarship awardees in 2011, 14 in 2012 and 27 in 2013. Each scholarship totaled $500. Scholarships are awarded by random drawings at each District 205 high school selected from students who have prepared their FAFSA application.
Jan’s legacy continues through Rockford Promise. The Board is committed to continuing her dream but we need the support of the community to fulfill Jan’s vision.