Foundation unveils new Promise Fund
The Sanilac County Community Foundation has a message for every child in the county: “We believe in you.”
And the foundation has put its money where its mouth is.
The foundation’s executive director, Melissa Anderson, announced last week that in cooperation with three area banks and the county’s seven school districts, a long-term savings account will be opened this fall for every child enrolling in kindergarten.
“It’s called the Promise Fund,” said Anderson. “A Promise Fund will automatically be opened for every kindergarten student with an initial balance of $50. The money has been gifted to the foundation by various donors. There is no cost to the families.
“Funds may be deposited at any time, but no money can be withdrawn until the child graduates from high school. At that time, a check will be sent directly to the university, college, or trade school of the student’s choice to help pay the cost of his or her post-secondary education.”
Anderson continued, “These accounts earn interest. Over time, the balance will grow through private deposits, additional savings matches, and various incentives.
“When you give a child a Promise Fund,” said Anderson, “you are providing him with hope and support from the community. It creates an environment where post-secondary education can be an option for everyone.”
According to Anderson, the goal of the Promise Fund is to increase high school and college graduation rates; to inspire a college-going culture throughout the county; to support families in their college saving efforts; and to invest in Sanilac County’s future.
“The majority of the students in Sanilac County schools qualify for free or reduced lunches,” said Anderson. “That means they are considered low-income. Statistics show that low-income students without a college savings fund of some kind have a college graduation rate of just 7%. But low-income students with a college savings fund graduate college at a 33% rate.”
Anderson added, “Children with as little as from $1 to $500 saved for college are three times more likely to graduate high school, and four times more likely to graduate college than those with nothing set aside.
“We think the Promise Fund will get conversations started about a child’s future at a young age. We believe it will help create a culture that supports post-secondary education. For many families in our county, this child might be the very first family member to ever attend college.
“And we’re not just talking college. We are talking about encouraging the graduating student to go after any type of post-secondary training, maybe a welding certificate, other skilled trades, anything that’s a valuable certificate.”
Anderson explained, “The student’s Promise Fund account will be handled just like a scholarship. Parents need to know that because all the accounts are actually held by the foundation in the name of each child, the interest accrued is not taxable. And they also need to know that deposits into a child’s account are not tax deductible.
“We are thrilled,” said Anderson, “with the cooperation we have received from the three participating banks, Tri-County, Exchange State, and Eastern Michigan. They have made the process free of charge and easy for families. A parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle, or other benefactor, can just walk up to the counter, mention the Community Foundation and the student’s name and address, and be able to deposit into the child’s account. Deposits can even be mailed to the bank.
“The schools have also been very supportive. They are coming up with incentives for students to save, like offering deposits into the account for achieving good grades, good attendance, or even being able to prove the student made it to all of their Well- Child appointments.
“Dentists are thinking about making deposits as rewards for a child having no cavities.
“We are so thankful for our philanthropic donors, the banks, the school systems, and all of our other community partnerships. I couldn’t be more excited or happier how this is rolling out,” said Anderson.
“Melissa presented Promise Fund to us at our May 11 board meeting,” said Peck Superintendent of Schools Frank Johnson. “It will begin with this fall’s kindergarteners. We are very grateful to the Community Foundation for this program and all of the support they give county students through their programs and scholarships.”
“Promise Fund is a wonderful idea and a great way to promote a college going mentality for our county,” said Jennifer Richmond, elementary principal and K-12 administrator at Carsonville-Port Sanilac Schools.
“Every little bit helps. It’s never too early to get started saving.” Richmond added, “C-PS has a Promise Fund sponsor for next year’s kindergarten class.”
President of Exchange State Bank, Sandra Willis, a strong supporter of Promise Fund, stated, “The relationship between post-secondary training and our community’s economic health impacts our county’s future. We are a community bank and feel investing in programs that serve our community and enhance the quality of life in Sanilac County is important.”
Willis went on to say, “The interest rate has not yet been determined, but there will be no minimum balance and no service or transaction fees with these accounts.”
Kendra Jickling of Tri-County Bank in Marlette commented, “We are pleased the foundation is starting this. Many of our people don’t have a savings account. This will be a great way to help them start saving for college or trade school. Any post-secondary education is good for our kids. I hope I’m still here in 13 years when the first class graduates.”
Anderson noted that possible scenarios could develop over the coming years that might merit a family accessing the money in their child’s Promise Fund account, such as an untimely death of the child, or the graduating student seeking to use it for some other purpose such as starting a business. These situations will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Brown City Schools, Carsonville- Port Sanilac Schools, Deckerville Schools, and Sandusky Schools will use Exchange State Bank as their depository.
Marlette Schools and Peck Schools will use Tri-County Bank.
Croswell-Lexington Schools will use Eastern Michigan Bank.
For more information, check out the Community Foundation website, www.sanilacfoundation.org.