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First Muskegon Promise scholarships to be awarded after big corporate gifts

MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI — A $400,000 gift from four local businesses to the Muskegon Area Promise effort means eligible students who graduated in June will be offered free college scholarships.

The gifts of $100,000 each from Hines Corp., Nichols, ADAC Automotive and the Alcoa Foundation mean recent Muskegon, Muskegon Heights and Holton students may be eligible for two-year scholarships to Muskegon colleges, according to a news release issued Friday.

“This is a game-changer for the Muskegon Area,” said Muskegon Area Intermediate School District Superintendent John Severson.

The scholarships, up to $4,050, are available to graduates from the three districts who had 3.5 or better grade point averages and have exhausted other scholarship opportunities. Eligible students, who have to complete a FAFSA form, will be contacted and offered the scholarship, according to a spokeswoman for the MAISD.

The Muskegon Area Promise effort is in the midst of a $900,000 private fund-raising effort, and the recent gifts have pushed it more than half way toward the goal, said Steve Parker, chairman of the Muskegon Area Promise Zone Authority Board.

“This is exactly the kind of investment we have dreamed of to get the Promise off the ground,” Parker said. “What these four businesses are doing for the economic development of this area is unprecedented.”

Larry Hines of the Hines Corporation, Mike Olthoff of Nichols, Peter Hungerford of ADAC Automotive, and Amy Heisser of Alcoa announced their corporate investment of $100,000 each Friday morning during the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce Business for Breakfast

The state recently approved the Muskegon Area Promise’s plan to first provide the scholarships to graduates of Holton, Muskegon and Muskegon Heights graduates for the first two years. In 2017, the scholarships are expected to be offered to graduates from throughout Muskegon County.

The scholarships provide up to $4,050 for tuition, books and fees at Muskegon Community College or Baker College of Muskegon.

Muskegon County is among 10 communities, and the only county, in the state that have formed Promise Zones that can capture tax increases to help fund scholarships. Scholarships have to be provided with private funds for two years first before the promise zone can capture half the growth of state education tax revenue in the zone area.

“This program provides our students with opportunity, motivation and vision to achieve academic excellence while in high school with the promise that college is a reality for their future,” said Alena Zachery-Ross, superintendent of the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System.

Lynn Moore covers education for MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email her at lmoore8@mlive.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.