This tiny rural community pledged to send all its graduates to higher education.
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In 2009, the adults of Baldwin, Michigan, made a promise to their kids, the students at Baldwin Community Schools.

If you studied hard and applied for higher education, they’d give you $5,000 a year for four years to make sure you got to go.

The Baldwin Promise was inspired by a similar promise made by the people of Kalamazoo, Michigan, to their kids in 2005. Along with 10 other regions in the Michigan Promise Zone, Baldwin provides up to $20,000 in academic funds for students who want to pursue further schooling. The money can be used at any public university or community or private college in the state of Michigan. All students need in order to qualify is to live in Baldwin from ninth grade until graduation, to be accepted at a higher learning institution, and to qualify for Pell grants. The Baldwin Promise makes up the difference.


Many of the students at Baldwin High School don't have a lot of options after graduation — that's where the Baldwin Promise comes in and provides college scholarships for those in need. A Starbucks original series.

Posted by Upworthy on Thursday, September 15, 2016

For students here, this promise means everything. Particularly when the odds seem stacked against them.

Baldwin, like many small rural areas in the Midwest, is very poor.

There’s no manufacturing and very few job opportunities. According to the most recent Census data, 29.2% of the people in Lake County (where Baldwin is) live below the poverty level; it's among the highest in all of Michigan. For young people, the statistics are even less encouraging. In 2012, 53.4% of children in Lake County lived in poverty with 93.4% of the school district’s 524 students qualifying for free or reduced-price school lunches. In this kind of environment, kids can often think that the world of higher education is far beyond their reach.

Shaddarius Scott is graduating from Baldwin Community Schools this year and headed to college in the fall. Growing up homeless, her future is one she’d never have imagined for herself.

"College was not even a thought in my mind. I was too busy worrying about the next meal and not the next step in life. With an opportunity like the Baldwin Promise, I was able to afford something that was not there for me."

Images via Starbucks.

"When you grow up in an environment where you’re told, 'You can’t be anything, you can’t afford to be anything' — to go from that to 'You can be whatever you want to be,' it’s like, 'Whoa, really?'"

As Baldwin graduates start to thrive, the Baldwin Promise has started to change the way this school district thinks about education at every level.

Now, from kindergarten onward, they prepare their students for what happens after graduation. The College Access Center helps students and parents with whatever they need — from filling out funding applications to researching schools to choosing where to go. They also organize the school’s annual Decision Day, when seniors stand in front of a cheering crowd of friends, family, and community members to announce where they’ve decided to go for higher education.

Makaylah George is one of the students in Baldwin’s graduating class this year. She applied to 13 colleges and universities. Standing in her yellow "accepted" T-shirt, she beamed. "I was accepted to all 13 of them."

Seeing these children succeed is the biggest reward for the community members who’ve invested in the Baldwin Promise.

Ellen Kerans was part of the team that came up with the Baldwin Promise. She remembers the enthusiasm people had during their early days of fundraising. "We had some grandparents say, 'I can only give $20 a month; is that enough?' and we would say 'Oh my gosh, that is more than enough.'" Within just a few months, they’d raised $160,000 — $40,000 more than their original goal.

"We didn’t anticipate the sort of grassroots support that we got. These were not people who had a lot of means, but [they] had a lot of vision."

In every way, the Baldwin Promise is succeeding.

In its first year, 14 students in the 23-person graduating class enrolled in college, up from just eight the year before. Now a full 50% of students who graduate high school in Baldwin enroll in higher education institutions within one year. That's a 13% increase from before the program began.

Getting through college is still demanding — financially, psychologically, and academically — and it’ll still be a few years before stats on college completion are available. In the meantime, there’s one more remarkable statistic worth sharing. It’s 95.3%: the percent of Baldwin parents who believe their kids will attend college because of this program.

That’s real hope — and a promise worth keeping.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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