Community funds promise to send Waterloo youth to college - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Community funds promise to send Waterloo youth to college

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WATERLOO (KWWL) - Sixteen Waterloo high school students know they'll have a college scholarship for at least two years, thanks to a promise made by community members.

In 2006, a couple in Waterloo saw a problem: Too many African-American teenagers were failing out of high school before graduations.

Statistics then showed a 66 percent dropout rate of African-American students in the Waterloo Community School District between grades 9-12.

When Dennis Harbaugh and his wife Juanita Williams learned about the dropout rate, they decided to do something about it.

They created the Harbaugh-Williams Education Promise Fund and have solicited donations from individuals and organizations across the Cedar Valley to fund a college scholarship for 16 students in Waterloo.

According to Harbaugh, the students were chosen in a second-grade classroom during a time when the Waterloo Community School District was experimenting with same-gender classrooms.

Now, almost a decade later, the students call themselves the "BKC's" or the "Brothers of Knowledge for College."

"There's been a lot of bumps in the road, but we always manage to stay together as a union and things like that, and we always bring each other back," said Davion Givens, a 16 year-old student at West High School in Waterloo. "Sometimes some of us get lost, but we've always come back together as a collective group."

Givens said he hopes to become a recording artist, but also said he's interested in the television industry.

"We really need these young men to be a part of our community and to be leaders in our community," said Harbaugh. "We can't have a strong community here in the Cedar Valley with that kind of dropout percentage."

Harbaugh and Williams promised the children in 2006 that if they stayed in school, did their homework and graduated in good standing, they'd send them to college with the community's help.

On Wednesday, Harbaugh announced the organization met its goal of $321,000 to offer a 2-year college scholarship for all the boys.

He said the donations poured in from people and area organizations, and now they'll shift their focus from fundraising to helping prepare the students for graduation and college.

Harbaugh said they are always looking for mentors and local businesses who can offer the teenagers work experience.

More information can be found here: http://www.educationpromisefund.org
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