A Publication of WTVP

prom·ise noun
1. A declaration assuring that one will or will not do something; a vow.
2. Something promised.
3. Indication of something favorable to come; expectation: a promise of spring in the air.
4. Indication of future excellence or success: a player of great promise.

ed·u·ca·tion noun
1. The act or process of educating or being educated.
2. The knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a learning process.
3. A program of instruction of a specified kind or level: driver education; a college education.
4. The field of study that is concerned with the pedagogy of teaching and learning.
5. An instructive or enlightening experience: Her work in the inner city was a real education.

Above are definitions of two words that we have used many, many times in our lives. Through the contributions of individuals and businesses in our community, I hope to add another definition to these words: Peoria Promise. Peoria Promise is being developed to place an emphasis on one of the most important values in our community, an education. Not just an education for some, but an educational opportunity for every Peoria high school graduate to receive up to 100 percent paid tuition towards a degree or certificate at Illinois Central College. We are very fortunate to have Illinois Central College in our community. Peoria Promise will help differentiate us from other communities by acknowledging the significance we place on education for our most valuable resource, our children. An educated population not only enhances quality of life, but ensures a workforce that our community needs.

Along with others in the community, I have been working on this project for over a year, based on an existing program in Kalamazoo, Michigan. While it is not immediately possible for us to match Kalamazoo’s multi-million dollar endowment to provide for a school population half the size of ours, we are in the process of building our own version of this new model for economic development. This is based on the theory that with the promise of continuing education for our high-school graduates, people will, in fact, be motivated to move into and remain in our community.

We all know of the difficult challenges being faced by Peoria Public Schools District 150, and now is the time for us to share in the ownership of these challenges. Regardless of whether your children are enrolled in D150, a private school, a neighboring school district, are home schooled or not in school at all, it is paramount that we recognize the need of our largest school district to survive, improve and excel. At present there is not one initiative in our community that ultimately can be successful without a strong and vibrant public school system. How many times have you heard someone say that “As District 150 goes, so goes Peoria?” I’m here to tell you, it’s true.

Dr. Bill Collier, a highly-respected local educator and administrator for over 20 years in the Peoria area, has agreed to serve this year as my Peoria city/school education liaison. Bill grew up in Peoria, attended District 150 schools, raised his family in the city and served the Dunlap community as superintendent of schools. He is committing himself to establish better communications between our local schools (public and private) and our local, state and nationally-elected officials. The education liaison position has been privately funded by grants from the Civic Federation, Chamber of Commerce and Workforce Development, all of which have a vested interest in education in our community. Bill has played a prominent role in moving the Peoria Promise initiative forward. We will be providing significantly more information on this exciting program in the coming weeks and months. Our timeline calls for Peoria Promise to begin funding tuition scholarships starting with the high school graduating class of 2008. Peoria Promise will be offered to Peoria residents who graduate from the public high schools that serve the resident students of Peoria. Any individual, business or organization interested in contributing to the funding of Peoria Promise should contact the ICC Educational Foundation at 694-5530 or Peoria City Hall at 494-8519.

Our future is now, and now is the time to “walk the talk.” Now is the time we embrace our schools and hold them accountable for our children’s education. In turn, we must provide all of our children with an opportunity heretofore not available to everyone. As mayor, I ask you to get involved in what may be the most important project we have ever undertaken, Peoria Promise. IBI