Last week, we finally got to tell the story of the “Gary Promise” to the Indiana State Board of Education. What’s the promise, you ask? We promise each student the ability to earn an associate degree before they graduate our high school. Many students are indeed earning this degree and one even went further and earned her bachelor degree while in our high school. All of this is at no additional cost to the student, nor to the taxpayer. And we are doing this in the shadow of our local traditional school district which is under state control and more than $100 million in debt.
 
State Superintendent Dr. Jennifer McCormick took time out after the meeting to visit directly with Erin Lewis (left) and Raven Osborne (right). Raven earned her bachelor degree from Purdue University while in our high school–a first for any student in the country, not just Indiana. Erin plans to be the second. She is a freshman at our school and will complete 22 college credits this year.
 
When we presented to the State Board, we shared that our mission is to beat poverty. We do that by going beyond the talk of college and career prep. If all we did was talk about it, our students wouldn’t stand a chance against poverty. There are too many obstacles in their way. Cost of college is just one of those obstacles. But family experience and success in college are equally large obstacles. That’s why we not only cover 100% of college costs, but we provide the experience to our students while they are with us in our high school. Gaining experience leads to success and confidence for our students to complete college.
 
In the past few years, 17 of our students have earned a college associate degree and 100% have been accepted to college. It’s too early to look at definitive data on college completion, but early anecdotal results are very promising.
 
Erin and Raven received standing ovations at the state board meeting. It is our hope to be able to replicate this effort across the state and country. And, in the future, we will bring a complete class of our graduates to the state board meeting–all of whom will have earned their college associate degrees.