Rockford Promise scholars embark on new year

Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 10:30 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - It’s back to school time for kids across the Stateline, and that includes the students who received free college tuition through the Rockford Promise Scholarship.

Maren Blakeney has been working towards her dream of becoming a diplomat since before she can remember. Blakeney believes the world is her oyster, with only some concerns to hold her back.

“I feel like the last two years have been almost really stressful,” said Blakeney. “Working to get good grades, desperately figuring out where I’m going to college, how I’m going to pay for college.”

Those worries are now relieved for Blakeney and dozens of other Rockford Promise Scholars. Many now embark on their first of four years at Northern Illinois University, tuition free thanks to the scholarship program. In fact, Blakeney’s neighbor, Evan Click, is one of those freshman.

“I saw Rockford Promise was offering free tuition, so I was like okay, I’m going to go there,” said Evan Click.

Click says applying to the Rockford Promise Program, was a no-brainier. He sees it as a running start towards achieving his future goals of working in engineering. Jeskayya (Sky) Black, shares a similar sentiment.

“You have to want it for yourself, you have to look into different things,” said Black. Black chases her passion of helping others, by getting her nursing degree at NIU. She credits the Rockford Promise Program, for giving her the ability to make a difference.

“If you really want to go to college, even if you don’t have the finances, you just have to look into it,” said Black.

While the three enter a new chapter starting, Rockford Promise Graduate Alyssa Giardono, closes her yearbook as a nursing student. The Rockford University graduate thanks the Rockford Promise mentors, for guiding her along the way.

“They help you figure it out,” said Giardono. “The money is just as important as having the support to go to.”

Giardino says the mentors from Rockford Promise helped her so much in four years going through nursing school, she plans on becoming one herself. Her biggest advice to starting Rockford Promise Scholars, is to take full advantage the support the mentors give.