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Promise speakers invited to conference in Washington, D.C.

Posted on October 25, 2016

Janice McIntyre
City Editor-News Times

EL DORADO — Four El Dorado residents – Alice Mahony, Sylvia Thompson, Lila Phillips and Allison Parker – have been invited to talk about the El Dorado Promise at PromiseNet 2016 in Washington, D.C. this week.

The El Dorado Promise is a $50 million scholarship gift from Murphy Oil Corp. for graduates of El Dorado High School announced in January 2007.

All four Promise enthusiasts have presented at various conferences throughout the years all over the country.

PromiseNet is a convening of practitioners, policymakers and researchers to learn more about the College Promise movement, according to the PromiseNet website. PromiseNet 2016 will enable discussions around local place-based scholarship programs, community economic development models and efforts underway to replicate and scale the College Promise with state and federal support.

Mahony, vice president of the El Dorado Education Foundation, will be the moderator for a session titled, “The Promise vs. Poverty,” and Thompson, Promise director, will be a panelist during Mahony’s session.

Phillips, executive director of the El Dorado Education Foundation, will be the moderator for “Database & Dashboards: Managing Your Promise,” and Parker, with Murphy Oil, will be a panelist on “Different Sectors, Mutual Goals: Leveraging Cross-Sector Partnerships.” Thompson will also be a panelist on “What’s in a Name? Marketing and Branding Your Promise.”

“Additionally Dr. Gary Ritter with the Office of Education Policy at University of Arkansas and our Promise researcher, will be presenting our Promise research at ‘Show me the Evidence: Policy and Practice from Research,’” Thompson said.

Mahony, Thompson and Phillips are on the planning committee for the conference and hosted table discussions at the “Promise Blitz” on opening day.

“We have all been invited to the final ‘Community College Convening,’ held at the White House with Dr. Jill Biden (second lady) and other senior administration officials to discuss college opportunity, college affordability and college-readiness strategies. We will also attend a reception at the vice-president’s residency at the Naval Observatory following the convening,” Thompson said.

The El Dorado Promise was fashioned after the original Promise – the Kalamazoo Promise in Michigan – and the movement has spread nation-wide.

“Kalamazoo held it’s 10 year anniversary in 2015 and ours will be in 2017. We are the oldest (Promise) after Kalamazoo,” Thompson said, explaining that the Pittsburgh Promise was announced in 2007, but scholarships weren’t awarded until 2008. The first El Dorado Promise Scholarships were announced in 2007.

“Other strong programs include the New Haven Promise; Michigan’s Promise Zones; Beacon of Hope in Lynchburg, Va.; Oakland, Calif. Promise; the Richmond, Calif. Promise and others. The closest to home is the Arkadelphia Promise and Jason Jones, their director, will also be attending PromiseNet,” Thompson said.

Since the first EHS graduating class to be offered The Promise – in May 2007 – over 2,000 students have taken advantage of the Promise, Thompson said.

The El Dorado Promise is unique because EHS graduates can attend any credited two or four-year college or university in the country. Students receiving Kalamazoo Promise scholarships must attend a college in Michigan.

The length of time students are schooled in the El Dorado School District determines the amount of the Promise scholarship the student can receive. For example, a student who has attended El Dorado schools since kindergarten through graduation would receive 100 percent of the scholarship and students who had been enrolled in the district since the ninth grade would receive 65 percent of the scholarship. The amount varies based on the number of years the student has been in the district.

Currently there are over 500 EHS graduates enrolled in colleges with Promise scholarship funds, Thompson said recently.