By Asia Nail
The Truth Reporter
And this is how we change the world: Cradle to Career
In January 2020, the high school gymnasium was filled with a sense of anticipation as students chattered excitedly, waiting for the assembly to start. Suddenly, a man in a suit walked up to the stage. He tapped the microphone and the room fell silent.
“I have some news that will change your lives,” he echoed through the gym. “Each and every one of you will receive a full scholarship to attend college or trade school in Ohio…and one of your parents, too!”
The 2020 graduating class at Jesup W. Scott High School had just been told they could continue their education at no cost to them due to a new initiative called H.O.P.E. Toledo Promise.
The students erupted into cheers and applause, their excitement filling the air with happy cries of astonishment. Pete Kadens smiled as he watched the joy and disbelief wash over their faces.
Toledo native and serial entrepreneur Pete Kadens is a philanthropist currently serving as chairman of The Kadens Family Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to closing the pervasive wealth and education gaps in the U.S.
Only 33 percent of TPS Jesup W. Scott High School graduates enrolled in college prior to the 2019 school year and the high school used to be considered the most underestimated and disadvantaged in the Toledo Public School district.
Now, with two-generation initiatives like HOPE Toledo, both children and parents are benefiting, proving the HOPE Toledo approach to be a pioneering and imaginative way to combating poverty.
“Our programs foster opportunities across generations within our city’s households,” said the Rev. John Jones, CEO and executive director of HOPE Toledo.
“March 2023 marks the first time our organization is releasing a detailed report about our progress in providing high-quality preschool engagement and programming while still fulfilling our HOPE Toledo Promise to be the first fully funded, two-generation college scholarship program in the United States,” he shared at last week’s press conference.
Nearly 70 percent of job openings today require specific postsecondary job skill credentials or a two- or four-year college degree —according to Congress.gov.
So HOPE Toledo’s Cradle to Career mission could, over time, put Toledoans in a position to be an equitable middle market community in this country.
While standing with Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, TPS Superintendent Romules Durant, EdD, and other community stakeholders, Jones laid out how the HOPE Toledo’s pre-school and postsecondary education programs have created generational change for families in Toledo.
“Our Ohio Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) scores reflect that over 30 percent of our kids in the HOPE Toledo program are testing at the standard levels or above,” said Reverend Jones. “This is excellent considering academic levels were around 11 percent prior to our efforts.”
To date, the number of pre-school providers has grown from 10 to 20. HOPE Toledo’s preschool enrollment has also expanded from 170 children last April to almost 300 children this school year . “We hope to reach 500 kids over the next two years,” said Jones.
Dondra Coleman, the owner and administrator of Learning Ladder Childcare and Development Center, has been serving Toledo’s families for more than 20 years. To her delight, she has expanded her services to accommodate more four year olds into her doors due to the partnership with HOPE Toledo.
“Research shows birth to age 5 is the most significant period for a child’s developmental growth,” she shared. “Helping providers like myself achieve high quality preschool programming, helps administrators like myself offer professional development and higher wages that attract and retain high quality educators which better supports active family engagement.”
Next, the 1st Cohort HOPE Scholar, Jahquan Chambers, shared his experience in a short video saying:
“I graduated in 2022 from Owens Community College. I went through ASEP, which stands for Automotive Service Excel Program. My University of Toledo expected graduation date is set for Spring 2025. I intend to continue working with Ballas Buick GMC putting my two associates degrees from Owens and U.T. to good use in my journey to becoming an automotive entrepreneur.”
This accredited program is Certified by National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) and is a part of Owens Community College’s curriculum.
“Jahquan was shy at first, but it was great to see him learning technical skills and applying them. He came out of his shell and now we see him growing as a different person,” shared General Motors ASAP Instructor, Chris Kinkad.
With economic inclusion being a part of Owens Community College’s mission, seeing their PROMISE scholars succeed brings pride to staff and administrators alike.
Eight of HOPE Toledo’s Promise Scholars have graduated from either a two-year to four-year college or trade school certification program. In their partnership with Northwestern University they did a study showing that 69 percent of PROMISE students in HOPE Toledo’s 2nd Cohort are gaining persistence.
“The new cohort is beating the National average in testing and post-secondary attendance rates at approximately 70 percent,” shared Jones.
Education is like a key that can unlock the shackles of systemic and generational poverty, creating a ripple effect that can bring hope and change to families and communities.
Few pre-k initiatives exist and most college promise programs focus solely on youth. HOPE Toledo’s college promise programs are dynamic taking a family focused approach while providing scholarships for both youth and adults at the same time.
No one else is doing this — at this level.
As history is being made, HOPE Toledo and its partners know the importance of their Cradle to Career mission and the impact it has on the lives of the children they serve here in the Glass City. They work together tirelessly unified in their hope of every child entering school with the knowledge, skills and resources they need to not only succeed, but to flourish.
Funding for HOPE Toledo Promise comes from the Kadens Family Foundation and ProMedica. The program is directed by President John Jones, Vice President Shawna Woody, and Community and Family Navigator Autumn Parker. For more information or to get involved, go to: hope-toledo.org