Promise Turns 10

When New Haven leaders gathered on Nov. 9, 2010 — 10 years ago today — to announce the establishment of New Haven Promise, former Mayor John DeStefano called the initiative a “contract” with students.

If students demonstrated the academic success and civic engagement, Promise would give them “the tools to go to college and therefore inject choice and opportunity in [their] lives.”

Ten years later, both sides of the contract have been upheld. The number of New Haven public school graduates who now pursue a four-year degree in the fall following their high school graduation has jumped by more than 70 percent since the program was established.

“It is hard to build a college-going culture without students having a means to pay for it and without the backing of the community,” said Promise President Patricia Melton. “Our primary partners — Yale University, Yale New Haven Health and the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven — have provided $28 million to assist more than 2,000 students explore their college dreams.”

And the return has been evident. Nearly two-thirds of those who have pursued a bachelor’s degree have obtained them, which is a considerably higher rate than national demographic data would predict.

The initiative has also helped fortify Connecticut’s colleges. Even since 2012, there has been a 50-percent rise among New Haven public school graduates attending in-state institutions. And there is a much steeper rise from 15 years ago.

Perhaps the biggest beneficiary has been the University of Connecticut. The first cohort of Promise scholars yielded 17 new Huskies. In recent years, UConn has been attracting nearly 100 each year.

In 2015, the University provided a guaranteed amount of institutional aid for each Promise scholar. Five other universities — Albertus Magnus College, Eastern Connecticut State University, Quinnipiac University, Southern Connecticut State University and the University of New Haven — have established similar enticements.

Another development of New Haven Promise was the establishment of its internship and career initiative, which was responsible for close to 200 hires each summer prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a meeting of the City of New Haven Board of Alders, an official from Yale University spelled out that the initiative was responsible for a multitude of paid positions previously unavailable to city students. Dozens of scholars have since parlayed internships into full-time posts and unique fellowships.

One of nine children in his family, Justin McClain, who will soon complete his nursing degree requirements at Western Connecticut State University, has taken advantage of all that Promise offers.

“My life story is similar to most families in New Haven, filled with struggle and perseverance,” he said. “New Haven Promise allowed me to manage my schooling’s financial aspect, focus on my academics, and gain the fantastic opportunity to be a Yale-New Haven Hospital clinical worker … I am a future nurse and a New Haven Promise Scholar, and I will continue to uphold the promise of guiding, healing and empowering everyone I can to the best of my ability.”

His story is one of thousands here in the Elm City. And 10 years in, things are just getting started. Past scholars are now reaching back to younger, or even future, scholars.

“I was able to see I’m not alone,” said Joan Llerena, who earned his Associates Degree from Gateway Community College and now studies engineering at UConn. “New Haven Promise provided a community for me. They supported me through tough times and always cared about my situation … I hope in the future I am able to  help others in the same way. Soon I dream to be part of New Haven Promise not as a Promise Scholar but as a mentor for the new generations.”

4 thoughts on “Promise Turns 10

  1. Wonderful Stats and data New Haven Promise! Congratulations on your 10th Anniversary from the El Dorado Promise and the El Dorado Education Foundation.

  2. Congratulations on your 10th Anniversary

    We applaud the achievements of Students and Staff at New Haven Promise- The Data speaks for itself-

    Outstanding Work !


  3. For many Americans, the “Affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act has seemed like an empty promise, as premiums, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs continue to be an extraordinary burden on millions of households. For Marque Dailey of Dallas, 35, who has multiple sclerosis, the Affordable Care Act was the only way to get private insurance. Before the law, insurance companies were allowed to deny coverage to people like him who had expensive medical conditions, or to charge such a high price that many could not afford the premiums. About half of all Americans had such pre-existing conditions, including high blood pressure or lung disease, that resulted in their being denied or potentially priced out of coverage, according to one federal estimate.

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