EAST LANSING – Sounds of celebration filled Michigan State University’s Breslin Center Thursday night.
Those claps and cheers weren’t directed at a victorious MSU basketball team. Instead, upwards of 900 people were on hand for the 4th annual Lansing Promise Dinner, a benefit supporting Lansing students’ pursuit of higher education.
“I am filled with hope and pride for the children living in this community,” Lansing Promise Executive Director Justin Sheehan said in his opening remarks.
Cardboard cutouts of soon-to-be Lansing Promise scholars greeted guests, complete with thought bubbles of their dreams to become astronauts, teachers and more.
The Lansing Promise is a scholarship program that provides financial support to students who graduate from a Lansing high school and live within the boundaries of the Lansing School District.
Recipients are able to take up to 65 credits at Lansing Community College for free, or receive an equal amount towards tuition and fees to attend Michigan State or Olivet College.
Marveling at the sheer size of the Breslin Center, Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul said she was taken aback by the enthusiasm for Lansing students on display.
“I’ve never seen a level of positive energy like tonight,” Caamal Canul said, adding that momentum for the program continues to build.
Thursday’s dinner featured stories from Promise scholars who were using their scholarships to attend MSU, LCC and Olivet. More than 200 Promise scholars have gone on to attend MSU, Sheehan said. More than 700 students have gotten assistance so far.
Kellie Dean, President of Dean Transportation and the Lansing Promise Zone Authority Board’s Chairman, spoke in football terms about the work done so far. The Lansing Promise has had a good first quarter, Dean said, adding that the audience should be prepared for big passes in the next quarter.
Next year, Dean said, the organization expects to reach 1,000 beneficiaries in the five years since its inception.
“We truly believe we are just getting started,” he added.
Dean also introduced MSU Head Football Coach Mark Dantonio, who spoke to the crowd along with three of his players. More than a dozen MSU football players joined their coach at Thursday’s event.
Rachel Lewis, president of the Lansing Board of Education, said Thursday’s event demonstrates the support Lansing students have within the community.
“This shows our community is buying into the whole experience of supporting students.”