Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Social Work

First Advisor

Donald Cooney

Second Advisor

Shawn Tenney


Education is the key to Social Mobility and unless children from poor families get a college degree, their economic mobility is severely restricted (Tough, 2016 pg 2). In November of 2005, the City unveiled a college tuition incentive to Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) graduates, The Kalamazoo Promise. According to the Kalamazoo Promise website (2017), the purpose of the Promise is to, “provide a real meaningful and tangible opportunity for all students,” as “education is an important key to financial wellbeing.” Though access to an affordable college education is possible for Kalamazoo students eligible for The Promise, the numbers show that fee college tuition is not enough. “Number of Graduates Rises for Fifth Year in a Row,” reads the headline of the August 2018 edition of the Kalamazoo Public Schools newspaper, Excelsior. According to the Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information data, the 2017 high school graduation rates among KPS students increased by 5.44% from 2007. Yet a Brookings (2015) study showed that nearly ten years after the implementation of the program, “Kalamazoo high school graduates were little, if any, more likely than their counterparts statewide to have earned 24 college credits within sixteen months of graduating from high school.” This study also determined that middle class students were twice as likely to have earned 24 credits as compared to the economically disadvantaged. The study concluded that while, “free college tuition is certainly a key component of any effort to reduce inequality of opportunity in Kalamazoo. But by itself, it is insufficient.”

The programs, Becoming a Man, Harlem Children’s Zone and Flint Community Schools have various factors that aid in improving positive educational outcomes for their students. These programs are designed for students of impoverished families to address the complications that contribute to the lack of social mobility. Implementation of these programs in Kalamazoo could supplement the Kalamazoo Promise and increase the education of students achieving college graduation.

The purpose of this research study is to examine the relationship between these three school-based community programs’ impact on college graduation, and recommend a program model for Kalamazoo to increase Kalamazoo Promise recipients’ access to social mobility. I will investigate the relationship between the Kalamazoo Promise success and social mobility in the City by identifying how the lack of basic needs, resilience and housing security pose barriers impacting children. I will identify the best practices of the programs, Becoming a Man, The Harlem Children’s Zone and Flint Community Schools and how their programs address factors that inhibit social mobility of impoverished children. I will recommend the adoption of a holistic approach to support Kalamazoo Public Schools students and increase Kalamazoo Promise graduation and social mobility among families of poverty-concentrated neighborhoods. Lastly, I will discuss a proposal for development of a new organization, the Kalamazoo Promise Alliance (KPA), a coalition of community-based organizations that utilize the KPS buildings as satellite community centers in order to increase access, support and outreach to students and their families.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

Included in

Social Work Commons