GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., May 29, 2024: For Jack McKellar, the Grand Rapids Promise Zone scholarship was a dream come true.

“The Promise Zone program allowed me to attend Grand Rapids Community College for free — and get my degree without accumulating any debt at all,” said McKellar, who graduated in April from GRCC with an associate degree in communications.

McKellar is one of more than 60 GRCC students who have graduated or anticipate graduating during the 2023-24 academic year with support from the Grand Rapids Promise Zone. Students earned or will earn associate degrees and certificates, complete job training programs, or complete both a degree and certificate.

Since 2020 when it was created, 135 students have graduated from GRCC using the Promise Zone scholarship.

The scholarship is available to students who live in the City of Grand Rapids and graduate from one of the 25 eligible public, public charter, or private high schools located within the city limits. The program covers the cost of tuition, fees, books and required course materials for GRCC’s associate degree and job training and certification programs.

Students must live in the City of Grand Rapids and have attended an eligible Grand Rapids high school from the 10th grade through graduation to have 100% eligibility; those who started in 11th grade may have 50% eligibility.

The Promise Zone scholarship is a last-dollar scholarship, which means any federal or state need-based aid a student qualifies for is used first. The Promise Zone scholarship helps cover the remaining balance. Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine available need-based aid. FAFSA waivers may be available for students who need them.

“The Grand Rapids Promise Zone scholarship removes financial barriers and provides support to students and their families who are navigating post-secondary education, providing greater opportunity for Grand Rapids students to be successful and contribute to their community,” said Ashlee Mishler,  Grand Rapids Promise Zone director. “Eligible students can start their educational journey at GRCC, earning credits or career skill certificates — for free — close to home.”

McKellar graduated from Grand Rapids City High Middle School in 2022. While unsure of a career path, he knew he couldn’t pass up the chance for a free degree at GRCC.

“The Promise Zone scholarship was an incredible opportunity and made me 100% sure I wanted to go to GRCC,” said McKellar, a lifelong Grand Rapids resident.

He also appreciated the chance to work part-time as a GRCC admissions ambassador while attending college.

“I not only didn’t have to pay for classes thanks to the Promise Zone, but I was also able to save everything I made while working here,” he said. “If I do decide to move on to a four-year college, I’ll be a little more prepared financially.”

McKellar said he enjoyed his communications classes at GRCC so much he decided to major in it. Down the road, he hopes to pursue a career in the film industry.

“I can’t say enough good things about the Promise Zone and how super helpful it’s been for me,” McKellar said.

Learn more about attending GRCC through the Grand Rapids Promise Zone scholarship.

About Grand Rapids Community College

GRCC was established in 1914 – Michigan’s first community college – and is focused on making college education accessible and affordable. Classes are scheduled in person and online, on weekdays, evenings, and Saturdays at locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties. We offer traditional liberal arts and occupational career pathways, adult education courses, and skilled training courses and apprenticeships.