How 2020 class of Promise Scholarship recipients are pursuing their dreams

A decade ago, a group of business and community leaders came together to plant seeds to help ensure the success of the next generation.

Their idea — inspired by the groundbreaking Kalamazoo Promise — was to provide students who had little resources the boost they needed so they could pursue — and accomplish — their academic dreams.

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. 

The 2020 Promise Scholar class includes 10 hard-working local students who now can realize their dream of a college education. They include graduates of Holland, West Ottawa, and Zeeland East 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. 

In their own words

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. 

Nelson Figueroa, a graduate of Holland High School, will attend the University of Michigan, where he plans to study environmental engineering. He says, “I would like to thank the donors for helping support this scholarship. It means the world to me. As a first-generation college student, who was left to pay for college myself, this helps me immensely.”

Esly Hurtado, a graduate of Holland High School, will attend Hope College with plans to major in mathematics. She says, “Thanks to the donors, I am able to focus on my education and put all my energy into doing well in my classes. Their generosity is allowing me to make my goals and dreams a reality.”

Gilma Jimenez, a graduate of Holland High School, will attend the University of Michigan with plans to major in psychology. She says, “Because of the kindness of the Promise donors, I am lucky enough to be able to attend my dream school and pursue a degree that will allow me to become a psychologist. My educational pursuits would not be possible without their generosity.”

Xitlali Loyola, a graduate of West Ottawa High School, will attend Ferris State University, where she plans to major in human resource management. She says, “I still can’t believe that I have been blessed with this opportunity. My family and I are ecstatic.”

Myriam Martinez, a graduate of Zeeland East High School, will attend Grand Valley State University and is considering special education or psychology as her major. She says, “Ever since I was a little girl, going to college has been a big dream of mine. I’ve always been a motivated and hard-working student, and it feels great to see my dedication pay off.”

Esli Mendoza, a graduate of West Ottawa High School, will attend Michigan State University, with plans to major in social work. She says, “I had many challenges that clouded my possibilities for college. But after receiving the help and mentoring I needed, I was able to become passionate about my education and my commitment to help others. I am the first person in my family to attend a four-year institution.”

Allisa Murphy, a graduate of Holland High School, will attend Cornerstone University, where she plans to major in social work. She says, “Being given this opportunity to live out my dreams is truly a blessing. I can’t express how excited I am to take this next step into the future that I’ve always wanted.”

Bruno Rios Ruiz, a graduate of West Ottawa High School, will attend Michigan State University, where he plans to major in accounting. He says, “Words cannot describe how thankful I am for being a recipient of the Promise Scholarship.”

Angel Verdusco graduated from West Ottawa High School in 2019. He currently attends Western Michigan University, where he is majoring in computer science. He says, “No words can describe the gratitude I have and the impact it will make on my life. My first year of college was awesome, and I look forward to the future!”

Alivia Ybarra, a graduate of West Ottawa High School, will attend Michigan State University, where she plans to major in child development. She says, “Thank you (donors) for helping me strive even further to make my true-life dream come true. I am so very thankful.”

CFHZ also has expressed its gratitude to the donors who invest in the futures of these hard-working students. 

Returning recipients

These 2020 Promise Scholars join 30 returning recipients who are on track to earn their degrees. Overall, the program boasts a 94% graduation rate as compared to the national average of 56%. 

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. 

Beyond financial need

The Promise also 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.

For more information about this community initiative, check out or contact Stacy Timmerman, Director of Scholarships, at
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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.