COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — More than $1 million is headed to the Columbus Promise Program, a public-private partnership that sends qualifying Columbus City School students to Columbus State Community College for free.

In the two years the program has been in operation, it has sent more than 1,200 Columbus City School students to the college, many of whom thought college was not in their future.

“I’ve had students tell me that college was just not even on their radar,” Cynthia DeVese, director of the program for Columbus State, said. “And then their parents heard of the program and said, ‘No, you’re going to college.’”

DeVese said it’s been an amazing two years for the program at the college.

“Another young student of mine was saying that, you know, she didn’t think that she was going to have the opportunity to go to college because, financially, it just wasn’t a possibility, so no one ever talked about it,” DeVese said.

The program takes graduating Columbus school students and offers them a free education at Columbus State. Once enrolled, they have tuition and fees covered, receive an extra stipend for books, and can participate in paid internships at local companies. 

Nearly 60% of the students taking part in the program are first-generation college students.

“Just having that connection of access to higher education, because that can definitely change the trajectory of their life,” DeVese said. “And then being able to have a job in a career field that they really enjoy.”

It’s for reasons like these that Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin said the community needs the program.

“The Columbus Promise Program equips them with those tools, with those certificates, with those degrees that allow them to come back, stay in our community, and take the good jobs that are being created here in Columbus,” Hardin said.

Both Hardin and DeVese are excited to see the impact these scholars will have on their community.

“So access and then student success, because we do want students to walk away with being prepared for a career, right?” DeVese said.

This will be the third and final year for the pilot program, and there are discussions about making the program more permanent.

For more on the Columbus Promise program, click here.