Holland/Zeeland Promise program receives anonymous $1M gift

A $1 million gift from an anonymous donor to the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area (CFHZ) will establish an endowment for the Holland/Zeeland Promise program, helping to sustain the program into the future and enabling the foundation to expand the current capacity of the program.

The Holland/Zeeland Promise program was founded in 2010 by a group of local community members and business leaders who wished to help area students achieve their dreams of a college education without the crushing burden of student debt. 

The founders designed the Holland/Zeeland Promise program as a last-dollar scholarship, which means that, after other grants and scholarships have been applied, the Promise covers the remaining cost of tuition, books, and room and board. 

The scholarship is awarded to local, highly motivated students who are often the first in their families to go to college. To date, 77 local students have received Holland/Zeeland Promise scholarships and 12 more students will be welcomed into the program this spring.

Changing course

Current Promise scholar Michael Griffor is among those elated to hear about the gift to the program.

“A common thread among Promise scholars is that we are changing the course of our family histories — we are the first in our families to attend college,” says Griffor. “The Promise program helps us realize that dream without the worry of burdening our families with a daunting amount of debt, which in many cases would prevent higher education from being a plausible option. To the donor of this incredible gift, and the many others who support the Promise, thank you for believing in us and valuing higher education.”

Since its inception, the Holland/Zeeland Promise has been housed at CFHZ, where it has received administrative support, additional visibility, increased financial contributions, and a deepening of the support offered to Promise scholars. 

Side-by-side support services

CFHZ Director of Scholarships Stacy Timmerman engaged local partners Thompson M-TEC Career and Corporate Training Institute and Mosaic Counseling to help enhance the side-by-side support services offered to Promise scholars. 

Thompson M-TEC provides career counseling and Mosaic offers critical mental health care as scholars navigate the social, emotional, and mental challenges of college life.

Timmerman and Yadah Ramirez, program officer/college success coach, check in with students monthly to see how they are handling classes and life at school, and connect them with campus resources. 

A former Promise scholar herself, Ramirez is uniquely qualified to help current students navigate the challenges of college life. This full spectrum of financial and emotional support has empowered Holland/Zeeland Promise scholarship recipients to achieve a 94% graduation rate in comparison to the national average of 63%. 

Many graduates return to the greater Holland/Zeeland area to work, live, and give back to their community.

“From the beginning of my involvement with the Holland/Zeeland Promise scholarship, it’s been 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 Timmerman. “This incredible $1 million gift will allow us to continue stewarding the vision of the founding members of the Promise for many years to come.”

Inspiring philanthropy

The donor of the $1 million gift hopes to inspire other individuals, families, and
companies who may be interested in supporting the Holland/Zeeland Promise. It is their hope that the Promise endowment will continue to grow through community support. 

“We are deeply humbled by the trust this donor has in CFHZ to use this gift to impact many lives. We refer to the Promise as ‘our community’s scholarship’ for a reason — it exists to empower some of our brightest students and ensure they can access the educational opportunities that will help them, and our community as a whole, succeed. We are thrilled that the generous donor of this extraordinary contribution, while wishing to remain anonymous, is allowing us to spread the word about this gift in the hopes of inspiring further acts of philanthropy,” says Mike Goorhouse, CFHZ president/CEO.

Goorhouse noted that additional gifts to the Promise endowment have already been secured, and CFHZ staff will continue to raise funds with hopes of building an endowment that will benefit the program for generations and allow the foundation to support more deserving students each year.

Those who are interested in making a gift to invest in the future of some of the area’s exceptional young people can contact Colleen Hill, vice president of development and donor services, at 616-994-8853 or chill@cfhz.org.

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.