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Promise Scholar Tracy Zarei Pays it Forward

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Tracy Zarei

The Kalamazoo Promise has positively impacted young people in Kalamazoo for ten years, and for some it's meant everything. Tracy Zarei was a teen mother graduating from Kalamazoo Central
in 2006 with honors, and the Promise meant the difference between going to college and completing it - despite things working against her.

This teen mother beat the odds and refused to be a statistic, taking advantage of the Promise she earned her degree in Education from Western Michigan University. Since then she has gone on to teach 1st, 4th and 5th grade at Edison Magnet School.

"Receiving the Kalamazoo Promise has impacted me greatly," Zarei explains. "I was able to finish college because of the financial contribution I received. My funds probably would have run out before I could complete my education. I believe it even helped me get my job because I'm in the Kalamazoo Public Schools, and I'm able to be that face for the Kalamazoo Promise. I definitely think it's had a big impact on me!"

Raising her children ages 11, 6, and a 1-year old, Zarei has continued to be involved in giving back to the community as much as possible, by participating in Girls on the Run, and teaching after-school programs through Communities in Schools. She has also done some work with Lift Up Through Literacy, a program offered through Kalamazoo Public Schools.

Zarei shared that staying in Kalamazoo to live and raise her children was an easy choice because she wanted to "give back to the community that gave her so much!" She loves the small, tight-knit community feel, where she can run into and connect with people she's met over the years, along with everything it has to offer.

The impact of the Promise continues to grow especially through support of community individuals like herself that took advantage of the program. Her thoughts on how to continue to improve the program and get the message out to the students, "I think that there should be more support for seniors, such as mentors during their senior year in high school and then continued support through their first year as freshmen in college."

She went onto share that others like herself that have experienced the impact of the Promise are the perfect candidates to volunteer and help create mentorships that solidify positive and everlasting relationships to the community. Although everyone would benefit from the additional support it could be especially helpful to those students who appear at risk.

So what's in Zarei’s future? It sounds like eventually going back to college to obtain her MBA, and then maybe teaching at a community college, or possibly becoming a high school counselor is the plan. She would also love to continue to be more involved in the Kalamazoo Promise to help support the program that has given her so much.

In the meantime Zarei does her best to promote and explain to her elementary students what the Kalamazoo Promise is and the benefits it has to offer. She also whenever possible shares how The Promise has impacted her life, but more importantly can make a difference in their lives too!

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