AUBURN — The DeKalb County Council and county commissioners added their support for Promise DeKalb County at meetings earlier this week.
Both local government bodies signed letters of support for the Community Foundation of DeKalb County in its application for a grant that would provide start-up funds for the initiative, which encourages children to consider careers and post-secondary education at an early age.
The program also will help establish College Choice 529 Savings Accounts for children to help them pay for the education or career training they will need someday.
The grant will come from the Lilly Endowment through Promise Indiana. Other counties in the area, including Noble, Steuben, Wabash and Whitley, have started Promise initiatives, which target children in grades K-3.
Judy Sorg, director of Learning Link, an educational initiative of the Community Foundation, said the grant would be for $30,000 over three years, and it would help cover operational costs of getting the program going.
Sorg said nearly 40 letters of support from the county have been gathered to submit with the grant application. “We’re getting a pretty big response,” she said.
Promise DeKalb County already has an advisory board and a task force, which includes local school superintendents. All DeKalb County schools are behind the program.
“We need them to make this happen,” Sorg said.
Sorg said the Promise program has a three-pronged approach. Along with the savings account, children participate in “Walk Into My Future,” a trip to visit a college campus. They get to talk to students and walk through buildings, and age-appropriate activities usually are included, Sorg said.
Teachers will use an established curriculum to teach children about the expectation of attending career training after high school. Sorg said the emphasis is on careers, since area employers are looking for those with skill training, and not necessarily a four-year college degree.
The foundation plans to find those who will provide funds to place the initial $25 in each child’s account. The student then will look for “champions,” often family or friends, who will match the original $25.
Once that’s achieved, Promise DeKalb County will add $75 to the account, meaning those children will begin with at least $125.
According to Promise Indiana, low- and moderate-income youth with that amount in a 529 account are four times more likely to attend post-high school training and are three times more likely to complete post-secondary education.