STEELTON, Pa. (WHTM) – As college tuition climbs higher and higher, the Steelton-Highspire School District is taking the sting out of the price tag, offering students two years at a local community college for free.
The district is partnering with Harrisburg Area Community College to reward kids who keep their grades up and demonstrate good behavior.
Steel-High is the first Midstate district to take part; it gives students a little extra incentive to ace that next test.
“My parents were hooked,” 7th grader Daytona Walsh says.
Daytona, sitting on top of a desk next to classmates Alex Torres and Tanner Sviben, their feet swinging freely above the floor, are all part of the new program called Harrisburg Promise.
“Classes get harder and harder and harder as you go up,” Daytona says, “but mostly what I do, I just study and study and pay attention.”
She’ll need to if she wants to stay in the program.
Harrisburg Promise offers two free years of college at any HACC campus if students keep up a 2.5 GPA through middle and high school — and follow a couple other rules.
“They have to stay off of drugs and alcohol,” Steelton Highspire Jr./Sr. High School principal Sheri Woodall says, “and they have to not become a teenage parent.”
Those are the rules set up by HACC; the college started the initiative last semester in partnership with the Harrisburg Housing Authority.
Joe Porter, part of the first-ever graduating class at HACC and now a member of the Steel-High supporting Roller Education Foundation, called the program’s administrators and asked if the district could be part of it, too.
They started participating in earnest in January.
This first year, 23 students at the school qualified and filled out applications. Everyone who meets the expectations and submits the forms is accepted.
“When we had the parent meeting,” Woodall says, “I wish you guys were there for that. Because every single parent was almost in tears that their students were selected.”
Woodall says 87 percent of Steel-High kids are impoverished, so for them, this is a real opportunity.
“Because to them,” she says, “college is unattainable, or it’s not affordable for them.”
“College is really hard to…” Alex starts to say. “A lot of money. It’s really a lot of money.”
Kids also attend monthly meetings at HACC as part of the requirements, something these students aren’t taking for granted.
“When you get up there for your college years it makes you feel comfortable,” Tanner says. “Like you know the place already.”
It’s a lot of years to keep up those good habits; Daytona, Alex, and Tanner are all ready for the challenge.
“It’s a great deal for me,” Daytona says. “Because I don’t have to pay anything.”
Victor Rodgers, the associate provost for workforce development and the program’s administrator, says they want to expand the idea to other Midstate districts in the future, but in order to do that they’ll need to keep fundraising along the way.