The Pittsburgh Promise is getting more promising. The program that encourages city residency by offering a $40,000 college scholarship to qualifying Pittsburgh public school students now comes with mentoring.
The Promise Coaches program, which was unveiled in August, received fresh attention Tuesday as speakers described its benefits to an audience at Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Larimer. The goal is to have 500 mentors help students attain the scholarship program's required 90 percent attendance record and minimum 2.5 GPA prior to high school graduation. Although these standards aren't too high a hurdle for many students with college ambitions, they are a challenge for many minority students.
Only 18 percent of the school district's African-American male students were Promise-ready in 2011-12 compared to 34 percent of black female students and 68 percent of white students. This is an appalling achievement gap that should galvanize the students' teachers and parents equally.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, schools Superintendent Linda Lane and other leaders are concerned about this discrepancy in performance enough to back a program that will go beyond general mentorship for students. Churches and community centers are reaching out to adults who are already mentoring students with the offer of added resources and 90-minute information sessions to help them get young people eligible for the Pittsburgh Promise.
Although the program is being supported by a $100,000 grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation, it's too early to tell if it will succeed. Still, the involvement of influential black churches and community service groups is a plus.
It's crucial to remind students not to throw away their chance for a grant that can cover the bulk of a college education. A $40,000 scholarship is a terrible thing to waste.