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 A Promise for Rockford

10/10/2018 5:30 AM

​It’s an honor for me to be part of the launch of the 20​5 VIBE​TM​ platform. Communication is critical to our success as a community, and we all have a stake in how our schools perform.

As your mayor, I focus on making our city safer, our neighborhoods healthier and our economy stronger. In all those areas, we are making steady progress. However, I know, as does my team and the City Council, that we still have much work ahead of us. While my responsibility is to focus on many short-term initiatives, I also must take a longer-term view that provides future leaders and residents the foundation on which to succeed.

Imagine this: What if we had a game-changing mechanism to attract people to move to Rockford? An initiative to increase our property values. A means to help make our neighborhoods healthier. A way to help us stamp out gang-related violence.

What if this mechanism could increase our high school graduation rates, our college enrollment rates, our overall education rates and our population? What if we had a true game-changing development that would positively impact our community now and for future generations? We have such a mechanism right here. We just need to fund it.

It’s called Rockford Promise and it was started in 2007. It’s modeled on the Kalamazoo Promise in Michigan, begun in 2005, that provides up to 100 percent tuition to any public university in Michigan to all Kalamazoo Public Schools graduates. Since its launch, Kalamazoo has seen public school enrollment increase by 25 percent. Troubled neighborhoods have stabilized, and graduation rates have increased. Rockford Promise was formed to provide the same benefit to our students.    

The donors and volunteers who have been involved with Rockford Promise thus far have done incredible work. They’ve positively changed the lives of young people with full and partial scholarships for students to attend Rock Valley College and Rockford University, many of whom would not have been able to afford college. However, if we want it to really change our community, we must dramatically increase its impact. We must fully fund Rockford Promise.

Reducing crime, improving our neighborhoods and growing our economy is directly linked to education. When we increase the number of residents with college or career education, we directly influence the health and wealth of our community.

At my State of the City presentation at Eisenhower Middle School in May, I called on the business, education and philanthropic community to fully fund Rockford ​Promise by 2025. We must make it possible for every graduate of the Rockford Public Schools who lives in Rockford and chooses to go to college in Illinois to do so tuition free.

If we choose to continue Rockford’s comeback, we must dream big dreams or our children never will. A community’s success is tied directly to its ability to educate its residents and attract educated residents. I know we can do this and I hope you’ll join me in working toward this goal in the months and years ahead.

Mayor McNamara visited Whitehead Elementary School students.
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