Peoria Promise Starts to Reap Benefits

by Tara Gerstner
Peoria Promise Foundation

Cap and gown: check. Diploma: check. No student loan debt: double check!

This spring and summer, over 20 graduates of the Peoria Promise program will have earned a degree from Illinois Central College. Many are planning to continue their educational paths at four-year universities; however, some are already joining our local workforce to put their newly acquired skills to the test in the Peoria area! These students are strengthening our local workforce by providing employers with better-educated and more skilled candidates.

One of these students is Kim Black-Ingle—the very first Peoria Promise student to graduate from ICC. Black-Ingle frequently wondered if she would ever have the financial ability to attend college. She lost her dad when she was young, and her mother struggled to support her and her younger sister, Melody. Then Black-Ingle learned about Peoria Promise. “I remember my mom and me and my sister just jumping up and down in the kitchen going crazy,” said the 20-year-old. She entered into the first Peoria Promise class in 2008 with the dream of becoming a pediatric nurse.

In February 2009, Black-Ingle unexpectedly lost her mother and became responsible for her sister, a high school senior. “This is where Peoria Promise saved me twice,” she said. “Not only was I going to be able to obtain a college degree, but I was also going to be able to help my sister do the same.” Black-Ingle graduated last December as the first Peoria Promise student and is currently working as a medical office assistant in a pediatric office right here in Peoria. She notes that her sister is also doing well. “Melody is working on her culinary degree and should graduate next year.” These two lives have been forever changed thanks to the generosity of the businesses and individuals who support the Peoria Promise Foundation.

That economic development through education is what the local nonprofit organization, Peoria Promise, is striving to attain. Educating the youth of Peoria by financially allowing all Peoria public school graduates to attend Illinois Central College will result in a more skilled and better educated workforce in the next two to three years. By doing so, we will strengthen the economy, increase civic engagement, and reduce crime, poverty, and lack of healthcare—in short, improve the human condition. The social and economic opportunities facing our country today can best be addressed by educating many more people, not only through high school, but beyond.

In the past two years, over 600 students have received financial support from Peoria Promise. In this difficult economic environment, Peorians should be proud of the fact that Peoria Promise continues to set us apart as the only community in the state guaranteeing post-high school education opportunities to all qualified public school graduates in the city.

Another Peoria Promise student, Gabriela Fernandez, is transferring to Illinois State University after receiving her associate’s degree in communication from ICC on the Peoria Promise scholarship. Fernandez states, “I was really worried about my financial situation and being able to pay for college until I heard about Peoria Promise.” She plans to return to Peoria after she gets her bachelor’s degree and work as an event planner.

Fernandez encourages people to donate to the program. “Please continue to support Peoria Promise and give students like myself the opportunity to go to college,” she says. “Your donation makes a world of difference in our lives, so thank you.” Fernandez believes that as a community, we can all work together to help students who may not have gone to college to better themselves. She also believes that Peoria Promise gives hope to those students who have always believed higher education was not within their reach.

With the first set of graduates finishing the program, Peoria Promise is beginning to show its impact. Each semester, the number of applicants increases, with Fall 2010 numbers topping 500. While the popularity of the program is growing quickly, the funds are not. The Peoria Promise board is hoping that will all change with some new fundraising events in the near future.

The first annual Dine Out for the Promise will be held August 9th through the 14th. More than 30 Peoria-area restaurants are teaming up to help send local students to college through the Peoria Promise Foundation. During the week of August 9th, many of your favorite local restaurants will donate 10 percent or more of sales on their designated day—all you have to do is go out to eat! To start the week, several downtown eateries (including Kelleher’s Irish Pub, Rizzi’s on State, Rhodell’s Brewery and Water Street Wines & Café) have teamed up to provide a kick-off dinner to be held at Kelleher’s Irish Pub on Monday, August 9th, from 6 to 9pm. The kick-off event will include live music, door prizes, a plated dinner, cash bar and local celebrity waiters. One-hundred percent of the dinner sales will be donated to Peoria Promise. Be sure to visit peoriapromise.org to print out your Dine Out for the Promise flyer. Many restaurants require the flyer!

The Holiday Inn City Centre gala to benefit Peoria Promise—featuring entertainment by world-famous artist Michael Israel—will be held on October 23rd. Tickets to the gala can be purchased by calling (309) 677-5886. Individual tickets are $150 and tables of 10 are $1,250. The public is encouraged to buy tickets soon, as this is expected to be a sell-out event!

Helping students like Black-Ingle and Fernandez better themselves through education is made possible by the active engagement and support of many organizations and individuals. That is why Peoria Promise is reaching out for support from local businesses, individuals and others committed to making the promise of higher education a reality for hundreds more Peorians. Please join the organizations below and support Peoria Promise by visiting peoriapromise.org or sending a check payable to Peoria Promise to 331 Fulton St. Suite 310, Peoria, IL 61602.

  • Caterpillar Foundation
  • Illinois American Water
  • CEFCU
  • RLI Corp
  • Methodist Medical Center
  • OSF Saint Francis Medical Center
  • ELM
  • Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino
  • Community Foundation of Central Illinois
  • RW Baird
  • William T. Kemper Foundation-Commerce Bank Trustee and Commerce Bancshares Foundation
  • Chinn Charitable Trust
  • David Vaughan Investments
  • State Farm Insurance
  • South Side Bank
  • Muir Omnigraphics
  • Mesirow Financial
  • AmerenCILCO
  • Archer Daniels Midland Company
  • Waste Management
  • Bard Optical
  • Advanced Medical Transport
  • Peoria Disposal Company
  • PNC Bank
  • Biotechnology Research and Development Corp
  • Henrichs Fund
  • Humana
  • OSF Health Plans
  • Miles Hauter Foundation
  • Grainger Industrial
  • Illinois Central College
  • Adams Outdoor Advertising
  • CityLink
  • Heartland Partnership Companies iBi

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