AMES, Iowa -- Incoming first year student at Iowa State University Lennetta Scott has been ready for college for quite some time. "I knew since I was five that I wanted to go to college." Many students at ISU will share similar feelings as they are welcomed back to campus. "It still feels surreal, like I'm a college student. I still feel like a high schooler," said Lennetta. However unlike most, Lennetta, a Hoover High School graduate along with twelve other freshmen from Des Moines Public Schools were given a special promise of free or reduced tuition from Iowa State when they were in the 8th grade. She said, "Really inspiring to think that a thirteen year old kid five years later will be able to go to a twenty-one thousand a year college and not have to pay that much is really amazing."
In 2013, then ISU President Steven Leath teamed up with Iowa Representative Ako Abdul-Samad for the ISU 4 U Promise program to include students at King and Moulton elementary schools in Des Moines. Abdul-Samad said, "My question was how do we address the inner-city schools? They are not thinking of college. A lot of them are not and a lot of their parents have not been to college."
Lennetta qualified for 100% tuition free. "Amazing. Just the thought of debt makes me break out in hives," she said.
Enrolled as a pre-law student, the program has allowed Lennetta to be the first in her family to attend college. She said, "There is a little bit of pressure but it's fine. I hope I pave the way for my other family members to decide to go to college."
An opportunity her community is celebrating. "It was so emotional. Their excitement, their parents excitement and the seed that was planted five years ago, it brings tears to my eyes," said Abdul-Samad. A future thirteen students are ready to turn into reality. "This is hope. They are not talking about the street and living in the hood. They are talking about building neighborhoods and communities," said Abdul-Samad.
Consider it a promise kept. Lennetta said, "It motivates me because I know I can do it. I just have to stick to the books but also I want to make my family proud."
The next group of students from King and Moulton Elementary that qualify will graduate from high school in 2021 and is on track to include as many as one hundred students.