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Student view: Supporting Lansing's promise

March 5, 2024 - Conner Holguin

Conner Holguin (she/her) is a third-year student studying social relations and policy in James Madison College with a Spanish minor. As a Lansing-native, she has a deep passion for community engagement and development, working with various organizations including The Village Lansing, MSU's Community Engaged Scholars Program, and serves as the pre-college assistant recruitment coordinator for James Madison. Holguin also recently was awarded the Presidentially Recognized Spartan Volunteer Service Award.

 Conner Holguin headshot
Having graduated from Lansing School District’s Everett High School and being a recipient of the Lansing Promise scholarship, I take great pride in the privilege to attend college in my hometown. At JMC, being a "Lanstronaut" encourages me to dive into my passion for community development and build stronger connections with local organizations that share my values. Through these relationships that I continue to build, I was offered a great opportunity from Lansing Promise — to testify at the Michigan Capitol on a bill that is close to my heart.

Promise Zones are designated areas in Michigan where students are granted a scholarship to partner schools if they live within the bounds of the city and have graduated from their respective school. Lansing Promise is part of Michigan's 13 Promise Zones, offering scholarships to graduates for enrollment in five in-state institutions. Over the past nine years, Lansing Promise has opened doors for 1,622 students to step onto college campuses, with a 92% retention rate.

Like countless others, I've directly felt the positive impact of Lansing Promise in breaking down the financial barriers to college across the state. Their mission is to increase access to higher education in disadvantaged areas and promote higher success rates in students.  However, as it stands, Promise funding is limited to tuition, fees and books. That's where Senate Bill 350, sponsored by fellow Everett alumna Michigan Senator (21st District) Sarah Anthony, comes in. This bill aims to broaden the definition of qualified educational expenses to include essential costs like room and board, transportation and childcare.

Since graduation, I've stayed closely connected with Lansing Promise, attending events and chatting with students to be a tangible example of what their futures could hold as Promise Scholars. Because of this ongoing relationship, Lansing Promise reached out to me to testify about the significance of SB350 to the Michigan House Appropriations Committee on February 21, 2024.

Conner testifying

During my testimony, I expressed my gratitude for the opportunities Lansing Promise has provided. However, I also highlighted the challenges I face — despite tuition assistance, I'm currently juggling 15 credits and three part-time jobs to cover other living expenses. My story is not an anomaly, and we are finding that students across the state are not able to reach their full academic potential due to financial stressors.

During its discussion before the Michigan House Appropriations committee, there was a strong emphasis on the urgent need to provide additional support to students throughout their college journey. Without such support, many students find themselves struggling to make ends meet while pursuing their dreams of higher education.

Standing before the committee to share my testimony, the intersection between academics and passion aligned for me. I stood directly in front of legislators with the power to enact change that would positively impact students statewide. This also was a chance to bridge what I'm learning about public policy with my passion for community development. Through this process, I realized the power of bringing these two worlds together. This experience showed me firsthand how the policies we study in class have real-world implications for the communities we care about deeply.