An increasing percentage of jobs in the United States require a college degree, certification, or credential beyond high school.
It hasn’t always been this way. In the past, good manufacturing jobs didn’t require more than a high school degree. These jobs provided middle class wages, benefits, and retirement packages. But in the past few decades the job market has changed dramatically. Most jobs now require some type of post-secondary degree or credential. According to 2010 data from Lumina Foundation, by 2018 Michigan will need to fill 1.3 million job vacancies resulting from job creation, worker retirements, and other factors. Sixty-two percent of those jobs will require post-secondary credentials.
To address this reality, Fremont Area Community Foundation took a major step toward building a stronger workforce and increasing educational achievement. In 2012, the Community Foundation adopted Goal 2025—a national goal—to increase the proportion of our residents with high-quality college degrees, certificates, or other credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. This goal was also adopted by the Michigan College Access Network, and WE CAN! Newaygo County, our county’s college and career access network.
We knew this work was vital to bring prosperity to Newaygo County and to produce the kind of local economy that could draw in (and keep) businesses and integrate talented people into the workforce.
As part of the Goal 2025 launch, the Community Foundation announced the Possibility! Scholarship, a one-time award offering up to $100,000 over four years. The scholarship could be used for tuition, fees, and books at any college in the state of Michigan.
The winner was Alyssa Greene, Hesperia High School student and big dreamer. Despite difficult family situations and financial struggles throughout her life, Alyssa was positive and hopeful. The scholarship selection committee was impressed by her story, academic achievements, and goals for the future.
Alyssa is the first member of her immediate family to attend college. Today, she’s a junior at Central Michigan University, studying sociology and youth studies. Alyssa is also a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, in an honors fraternity, and last year was accepted into the McNair Scholars Program at Central for aspiring Ph.D. students.
Alyssa’s story is an inspiration for others in our community to see what is possible when you set clear goals and apply yourself. She may have received a significant opportunity from the Community Foundation to get started, but all of the motivation and drive that came after is 100 percent hers.
About the scholarship, Alyssa said, “It signified hope to me. I meant I could do all the things I wanted to do with my life.”
Alyssa’s story is particularly important as we consider the importance of education in relation to workplace development in our community. We are working closely with local public and private school districts and other partners to take steps towards Goal 2025 and encourage a college and career focused culture in Newaygo County. For more information, visit our website.
Carla Roberts is President and CEO of the Fremont Area Community Foundation and a Member of the Board of Directors of the Council on Foundations.