Education

A new program has pledged post-secondary education scholarships to current kindergarten and first-grade students in the Portland Elementary School.

“Louisville Goes to College” is spearheaded by Portland developer Gill Holland and his wife Augusta.

According to Holland, local florist Sandy Rodgers gave him the inspiration to start the program and funds from the Augusta Brown Holland Charitable Foundation have made it a reality.

Holland said they picked the Portland neighborhood because it has a high percentage of low-income students. According to the Kentucky Department of Education, 95.7 percent of Portland Elementary School’s pupils receive free lunch.

Starting this spring, Louisville Goes to College will donate $100 per year to an account in each student’s name. It will also donate up to an additional $100 to any account to match any parental or family contribution.

“So each child can potentially bank $300 per year of school towards post high-school education,” Holland said.

Once a child graduates, he said an extra $500 will be deposited into the account. He added that if a child’s family has invested $100 per year, the foundation will guarantee the pupil will “have at least $5,000 upon high school graduation to help with future education.”

The scholarships don’t apply specifically to universities or colleges though.

“They can go to cosmetology school or plumbing school; it’s just anything with a certificate after high school,” Holland said.

Spalding University and Bellarmine University have both pledged dollar-for-dollar matching scholarships to the program’s students that choose either institution upon their high-school graduation.

Holland said even though the program focuses on Portland Elementary’s youngest students, there will also be opportunities for the school’s older pupils to apply for scholarships. He hopes the program will generate enough donations to be expanded to other struggling elementary schools, and eventually to all in Jefferson County.