Baylor University is offering a community outreach grant to pull a summer program for low-income Waco ISD students back from the brink of closure as the city of Waco prepares to finalize its decision to pull funding, Baylor interim Provost Michael McLendon announced Friday.

The new recurring grant will replace the $37,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money the city plans to stop giving Project Promise, Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said.

The news comes after 20 people spoke July 18 against a proposal by city officials to scale back on the number of organizations receiving money from Waco’s shrinking pool of the block grant money starting in the next budget cycle.

The city had covered part of the cost of the program for the past 18 years. Project Promise sends about 60 gifted and talented, low-income Waco ISD students to Baylor’s University for Young People, a three-week summer program for gifted and talented students.

“Project Promise stands as a shining success and an example of the kind of partnership between Baylor University and the Waco community, of which we can be most proud,” McLendon wrote in a press release. “Over the past 20 years, the program has improved both the lives and educational prospects for hundreds of Wacoans from all economic backgrounds. Today’s announcement underscores Baylor’s commitment to these children, to their families and to our local community.”

The announcement of the new funding source is thrilling, said Susan Johnsen, Project Promise’s principal investigator for the Community Development Block Grant. As of last week, Johnsen said she was unsure how the program would bring in the money needed to continue. Just one person had come forward to offer support, she said.

Many of the students who participate in Project Promise don’t have relatives who attended college, and the program is often the place they learn to believe college is an option, Johnsen said earlier this month.

More than 15 percent of students who completed the program have an associate’s degree, 34 percent have a bachelor’s and 9 percent have a master’s degree, she said. The program just had its first student go on to complete a doctoral degree, she said.

The outreach grant will cover 60 students next summer, and Johnsen said she hopes, with Baylor’s continued support, Project Promise can eventually build up its enrollment to 100 students.

“We’ll certainly continue to look for scholarship money and other funding so we can continue to support children for lower socioeconomic backgrounds to attend the University for Young People,” she said.

Baylor was already matching the city grant money it received by paying for people, infrastructure and space for University for Young People, Johnsen said earlier this month.

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