An Innovative Promise
he cause is noble: to turn around Detroit and its
public schools by providing college scholarships to
city residents enrolled in the beleaguered school
system. Certainly, a good education is one of the keys to reju-
venating the city and kindling the kind of economic dynamic
in the region that brings more jobs and real hope.
The hitch is the poor state of the
Detroit Public Schools: a falling tax
base, crime-laden grounds, tired
teaching tools. The graduation and
dropout rates are among the worst in
the nation. Some of the lost students
are good students who chose to trans-
fer to other districts or to private or
Enter Detroit College Promise
(DCP). Like its model, the highly
successful, 3-year-old Kalamazoo
Promise, DCP is a nonprofit. DCP
founder Nat Pernick seeks to achieve similar success by lifting
public school enrollment, promoting a college-preparatory
school track and motivating nonresidents with college dreams
for their kids to move into Detroit and embrace its public
"We started last year by offering scholarships to all graduat-
ing seniors at Cody High School, and we now offer at least two
scholarships at 10 Detroit public high schools:' Dr. Pernick
told the IN last week in an online interview."We plan to have
at least some scholarships at all Detroit public high schools
within 1-2 years."
The plan then is to extend some scholarships at all Detroit
public high schools and ultimately boost the college schol-
arship amount to cover full tuition. The maximum award
will be based on years of continuous Detroit Public Schools
enrollment and Detroit residency — in
keeping with the spirit of the Kalamazoo
Promise. There are no limits on income
or grades. A responsible board oversees
DCP. All money raised will go toward
tuition and required fees; it will be sent
directly to colleges. Each gift of $2,000
supports one student in Detroit College
Promise at $500 per year for four years.
urban hotspots. For most, their education mattered. When I
wrote about the power of Pernick's promise last year, I noted
how resources to help capable Detroit students attend college
are a natural fit for Detroit Jewry, which extends far beyond
the city borders.
Beyond the scholarship thrust of Detroit College Promise,
Pernick has a personal interest in widening Detroit's Jewish
residential presence. "Like many others',' he said, "my parents
were born in Detroit, graduated from Central High School and
lived a great deal of their lives in Detroit!'
He's a Huntington Woods resident, but wants his children
and, one day, his grandchildren to have a viable option to live
in Detroit. "Providing these scholarships is one way to make
Detroit more attractive to our young adults:' he said.
"Whether or not we live or work in Detroit today:' he added
perceptively, "our lives will improve as Detroit itself becomes
more economically prosperous!'
Pernick is busy strategizing about how to up that Jewish
presence. His inquisitive mind churns out ideas.
"Perhaps we could offer housing subsidies as was done
for part of Oak Park and Southfield in the past [through
Federation's Neighborhood Project]," he said. "Perhaps we
could strengthen the Downtown Synagogue or other remain-
ing Jewish institutions in Detroit. Perhaps Chabad would be
interested, with some support, in establishing a presence in
Detroit since it often locates in nontraditional areas!'
Let's not overlook Wayne State University: Jewish students
are becoming more aware of and engaged in Jewish and
Zionist causes; Hillel of Metro Detroit is a student rallying
point; there's a strong Jewish alumni base; and Jewish names
adorn many of the campus buildings.
I like Pernick's willingness to be a path-
finder. He confides he doesn't know it all.
He's eager to dialog with Jewish young
professionals who already live in Detroit
to discover the touchstones necessary to
keep them in the city. "I don't know spe-
cifically what will work),' he said. "But I
think it is important to start working on
Metro Detroit's economic engine
depends on an efficient fuel line — a
Don't downplay Pernick's resolve. Listen
vigorous central city. And an educated
when he says DCP may well transform
core of young families is central to that
Detroit into a center of brainpower with
a significant percentage of college gradu-
Jews appreciate the value of learning
and knowledge, which nurture our love
The pathologist and attorney by pro-
for Torah and our heritage no matter
fession is a caring soul. He grasps that the
Dr. Nat Pernick: He's certainly
how religiously observant we are. But
best way to raise Detroit and the region
we must do more to sway the Detroit
is by elevating the educational opportuni- passionate about Detroit.
residents who believe education is the sole responsibility of
ties for our central-city kids. His findings indicate that most
schools, not parents. Even as we enrich our day and syna-
Detroit Public Schools graduates who go on to earn a degree
gogue schools, Jewish Detroit must remain an influential force
return to the region and have the capacity to contribute to
when it comes to public school support.
its turnaround. Currently, about 30 percent of the district's
4,000 graduates each year attend college, the vast majority in
For details on Detroit College Promise's $2 million scholarship drive,
Education is revered in the Jewish community. Some degree go to www.DetroitCollegePromise.org. Please share your thoughts
online: thejewishnews.com/community. Go to Local News.
winners return home while others move to more appealing
On behalf of the men, women and
children with disabilities we serve...
This year has been a time to
celebrate JARC's forty years of
helping people with disabilities
to live full and dignified lives in
our community. As you consider
your year-end charitable gifts,
please remember how much
your generous support
enriches the lives of others.
Together we will remain
strong for another
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Farmington Hills, MI 48334
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December 3 - 2009