Baldwin Promise Zone wins Inaugural Promise Keeper Award

Baldwin Promise positively impacts students' futures

The Baldwin Promise was announced as the winner of the inaugural 2021 Promise Keeper Award. (Star file photo)

The Baldwin Promise was announced as the winner of the inaugural 2021 Promise Keeper Award. (Star file photo)

BALDWIN — On November 17, 2020 the Baldwin Promise Zone Authority accepted the first ever ‘Promise Keeper Award’ from the Michigan Promise Zone Association (MPZA) and the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) during an online awards recording.

In attendance, virtually, were State Senator Curt VanderWall, MCAN Director Ryan Fewins-Bliss, MPZA Executive Director Charles “Chuck” Wilbur, Baldwin Promise Zone Authority Chair Deborah Smith-Olson, Baldwin Promise Zone Authority Development Chair Ellen Kerans, Baldwin Community Schools Superintendent Richard “Rick” Heitmeyer, and Baldwin Promise Zone Coordinator and Executive Director of the Baldwin College Access Center Duane J. Roberts Jr.

Ryan Fewins-Bliss, MCAN Director, and the MCAN Staff usually oversees awards and recognition at the annual MCAN Conference, attended by over 600 people. Unfortunately, due to COVID19, the event was cancelled for this year.

Fewins-Bliss made note, “The winners of our awards not only is recognized for great years of success, but for the time that goes into their success. It happens to be that this year 2020 the Baldwin Promise will be awarded the first-ever Promise Keeper Award. I would like to be the first to congratulate Baldwin on their success and endeavors.”

The Michigan Promise Zone Association bestows The Promise Keeper Award to an individual or organization that has made an extraordinary contribution to community-based programs that are using Promise Scholarships to expand educational opportunity and promote economic development.

The 11 Promise Zones that comprise the Michigan Promise Zones Association were created through bi-partisan legislation, first enacted in 2009. Each has established a broadly accessible scholarship program, to give students of all ages in their community’s confidence that they will be able to afford education after high school. This award is new in 2020.

Chuck Wilbur, Executive Director of MPZA, stated, “We were proud to present this award to the Baldwin Promise. It was a “no brainer” for whom this inaugural award was to be presented. They were the first rural promise zone created, the first to award their students funding within the next year, the first to qualify for tax dollars because the Baldwin Promise created and implemented the primary funds within the first two years.

"They continue to be leaders by assisting high school students through all the hoops necessary to apply to college and by creating trips to colleges for students as young as fourth grade. They continue to encourage all Baldwin students to reach their dreams," he said. "In fact, for more than 10 years the Baldwin Promise has demonstrated that no matter the size of the community, they will always have a great impact on the future of their students.”

Promise Zone Coordinator Duane J. Roberts Jr. made mention of how the “Baldwin Promise” was an idea and goal of Rick Simonson a Baldwin Community Schools graduate himself, and a long-time supporter of higher education.

Roberts had this to say, “Even though Rick passed several years ago, I know he would be proud that he is a part of the group who have kept the promise alive and growing.”

Roberts continued, “I remember ten years ago listening as my brother was awarded the Baldwin Promise. Now, to be one who works with students and families to promote post-secondary success in Lake County is a humbling and gratifying experience. We will continue to do all we can for the students at Baldwin Community Schools so that they can achieve their dreams.”

To close the award celebration, State Senator Curt VanderWall had these words to say, “It has been a real joy of mine to work up through the system and to see what promise zones have done for the future of our students. With all the hard work that has been put in by Rick, Debbie, Ellen, Duane, and Baldwin as a whole, last year I was able to witness a student come back and tell what the Baldwin Promise has done for him to receive an education. I am sure it will be proudly displayed next to their sports trophies and hold even more value.”

This award would not have been possible without the love and support of the families, faculty and staff, students of Baldwin Community Schools, and the generous donors who want to help the Baldwin students achieve their goals. Our success and ability to keep the “promise made 10 years ago” is due to all who have contributed in various forms, and they are the reason that the Baldwin Promise was chosen for this prestigious award.

You can watch the awards video at