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An idea came to me as a result of a recent visit to Pittsburgh. There I learned that a consortium of the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Public School Foundation, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and other foundations and corporations had created a marvelous visionary scholarship program called the Pittsburgh Promise. These organizations have pledged to help all students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools to plan, prepare and pay for their education beyond high school at any accredited post secondary institution in Pennsylvania. Students have been in the Pittsburgh Public Schools for at least four years will receive $7,000 each year towards their college education. If students have been in the public schools from kindergarten on, they will receive $10,000 each year towards their post secondary education.
What a gift and what a marvelous opportunity not only for the students but also for the city itself. The City of Pittsburgh hopes that more people will move into the city, use the public schools, help reform the school system and hopefully return to Pittsburgh to work and live.
It took very forward looking leaders in the community to come up with this unique and splendid opportunity to strengthen the city and the school system. They believed that this could be a way to revitalize the city and the school system, increase property values and make the city more viable.
Ten million dollars was raised for the initial four years of scholarships. And more is currently being pledged for the next four years. These community leaders believe this would be good for their region, good for the school system and good for the city. And they have been correct. Pittsburgh is becoming a major urban player in the country. For example two years ago Pittsburgh hosted the G20 International Economic summit,
St. Louis certainly can do the same. What a great opportunity this would be for us in our region. It would be an incentive for all school children in the St. Louis School system. It would encourage students to complete high school and give teachers reason to work harder to help their students graduate. And it would be excellent for St. Louis City. It is probable that more people would move into the city with such an opportunity for their children. It would also be an excellent incentive to continue to improve the city school system.
All we need is for the business community and the education community to create a similar partnership. The money is here in this city; many national and international businesses are in the region and we know that these institutions need graduates prepared to enter the work force. This would also guarantee that we would have a more educated constituency in the St. Louis area. There is nothing to stop us but ourselves. Let our business and education communities lead the way so that we can say we are willing to use our resources for our children, our community and our future.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Susan Uchitelle is a consultant for the Voluntary Interdistrict Coordinating Council.