How 2021 Promise Scholarship recipients are pursuing their dreams

The Holland/Zeeland Promise — an academic scholarship for students with high financial need, proven academic success, and motivation to achieve the goal of a college or technical degree — recently announced its 2021 cohort.

Launched in 2010, the Holland/Zeeland Promise — a program administered through the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area —  allows local young people to graduate from college or technical school without crushing student debt. 

“It’s a joy to be part of an initiative that exists solely to help young adults achieve their academic goals and prepare for the future,” says Stacy Timmerman, the foundation’s director of scholarships. “We are incredibly grateful to the donors who support this program and help these students pursue their dream of a college degree.”

This program is the vision of a group of business and community leaders coming together to plant seeds to help ensure the success of the next generation.

The 2021 Promise Scholar class includes 10 hard-working local students who now can realize their dream of a college education. They include graduates of Holland and West Ottawa high schools, and are pursuing degrees at Hope College, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, and Cornerstone University. 

Meet the class

Each member of this new class of Promise Scholars shared their dreams for the future and their gratitude for the opportunity this unique community is giving them. 

In their own words:

Selena Vazquez, a recent graduate of Holland High School, will attend Hope College to pursue a degree in English. “Receiving this scholarship is an absolute dream come true. I’m so thankful for the donors who are supporting the education of the next generation. It inspires me,” she says.

Ricardo Flores, a recent graduate of West Ottawa High School, will attend Michigan State University to pursue a degree in computer science. He says, “Thanks to this scholarship, I will be the first generation to attend college and achieve my goal of becoming a software engineer. I am very lucky to be a part of such a generous, diverse, and kind community that believes everyone should succeed.”

Alexis Fuentes, a recent graduate of West Ottawa High School, will attend Michigan State University to pursue a degree in management, sayds “This year allowed me to cement my interest in going into a business field of study, as well as learn the process of applying to college since my parents never had that experience. I would like to thank the donors for making this opportunity a possibility.” 

Steve Nguyen, a recent graduate of Holland High School, will attend the University of Michigan to pursue a degree in computer science. He says, “The support that CFHZ and its donors have given me will allow me to flourish and see my true potential in life.”

Destinee Phasoukvong, a recent graduate of Holland High School, will attend Hope College to pursue a degree in pre-speech language pathology. “Words cannot explain how incredibly thankful I am,” she says. “Allowing me to continue my education without worrying about my financial situation will allow me to focus solely on school.”

Fredy Rincon Pérez, a recent graduate of West Ottawa High School, will attend Hope College to pursue a degree in accounting. He says, “It was going to be very difficult to be able to work, study, and at the same time pay for college. Thank you to the donors for helping create opportunities for students who need it most.”

Jennifer Dao, a recent graduate of West Ottawa High School, will attend Grand Valley State University to pursue a degree in accounting. “My mom has been working hard to support my brothers and me since my dad passed. With this scholarship, a huge burden has been lifted off our shoulders. I am forever grateful,” she says.

Ebony Roach, a recent graduate of West Ottawa High School, will attend the University of Michigan and is still deciding what degree she will pursue. “I feel incredibly lucky to have been chosen for this scholarship,” she says. “It relieves a lot of financial stress and makes me even more excited for college. I am excited for the future.”

Jacqueline Roman, a recent graduate of West Ottawa High School, will attend Central Michigan University to pursue a degree in French and communication sciences and disorders, says “I am joyful and grateful to be recognized as a recipient of this scholarship. This serves as a huge motivation to continue pushing forward and help other students achieve their goals, too.”

Angel Ruiz, a recent graduate of Holland High School, will attend Kalamazoo College to pursue a degree in chemistry and biology. “You have no idea how honored I am to receive this scholarship. All my years of hard work have definitely paid off. My family will be forever grateful,” he says.

About the Promise

The 2021 Promise Scholars join 33 returning recipients who are on track to earn their degrees. Overall, the program boasts a 96% graduation rate as compared to the Michigan average of 49%.

The Promise is a last-dollar scholarship, which means that after other grants and scholarships have been applied, generous local donors cover the remaining costs of tuition, books, and room and board. Unlike many other scholarships, the Promise is renewable for additional undergraduate years, dependent on students remaining in good academic standing and making progress toward their degrees.

The Promise offers a side-by-side approach, addressing not only financial needs, but also academic and socio-economic needs. Students participate in monthly check-ins to see how they are handling classes and life at school. They are also connected with helpful campus resources. Extra support is provided through local partnerships with Mosaic Counseling and Thompson MTEC.

Related:

U-M is next stop for Promise Scholar with a passion for the environment

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.

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