LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jayda Rhodes remembers sitting in the Western High School gymnasium back in September 2012 when the Louisville Rotary Club made a promise to help fund her future.

"At first it didn't really make much sense," she said. "It was one of those offers that sounded too good to be true."

The offer: graduate with at least a 2.5 grade point average, 90 percent attendance and no major disciplinary problems. The reward: the Louisville Rotary Club would pay for their first two years of college and then some.

On Thursday, that promise made four years ago was fulfilled as 31 seniors from Western High were recognized for their work in meeting the eligibility requirements. They attended a luncheon with the rotary club at the Galt House, receiving certificates recognizing their achievements and a medallion they will wear when they graduate next week.

"I was thinking about college but I always thought it was more like a dream to have than a goal," Rhodes said.

The tuition-free education at Jefferson Community and Technical College (JCTC) is being provided through the Louisville Rotary Promise Scholarship program. Those who graduate from JCTC with an associate's degree are also eligible for $10,000 in grant aid over two years from the University of Louisville to apply toward a baccalaureate degree. 

Greg Braun, president of the Louisville Rotary Club said his organization started the scholarship program at Western High and has expanded it to include Iroquois High School in order to "make a difference."

"The program was launched first at Western High in 2012-13 and then at Iroquois High the following year," Braun said. "The scholarships are funded by $1 million, half of which was raised bu those here. The other half was matched by the state community college system."

Targeting freshmen aims to turn things around over time, Braun said. In addition to the money, the students are mentored by Rotarians.

"It's inspiring for our other students to see that this is a promise that will become a reality," said Superintendent Donna Hargens. 

Banners that hang inside their schools remind the students at Western and Iroquois of the promise made to them as freshmen.

"There's that constant reminder every day that if they do what they promised, we've got the money to back it up and we'll do what we promised," Braun said.

Rhodes says for her, "It was something that I did want to do but I couldn't see how I would be able to."

It's a promise that she says will change her life.

"To have somebody that doesn't know you at all to believe in you, to give you money is just something that seems too good to be true," she said.


Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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