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DAD Series: Generations of Debt-Free Learning

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Joe Duisterhof

Since graduating in 2012 from Kalamazoo Central High School (Kalamazoo Central), a lot has changed for Joe Duisterhof. He completed college, found a career, got married, bought a house, and became a father all by the age of 25. Not many people can accomplish all of that at such a young age, but Duisterhof contends that The Kalamazoo Promise (The Promise) has been key in making this possible.

“I actually went to a charter school when I was younger,” he revealed. “My family decided to send me to Hillside Middle School (Hillside) in 8th grade so I could use The Promise.”

This decision had a major impact on Duisterhof’s life. Not only did he meet his future wife at Hillside, but the switch to Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) also ensured that he would have 65% of his postsecondary tuition paid for.

“The Promise was such a valuable resource for me,” he explained. “I didn’t have the financial burdens that a lot of my fellow students did and could really focus on school.”

This financial support allowed Duisterhof to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Western Michigan University without incurring any student debt.

For two and a half years, he and his wife worked and lived in Midland. When they found out they were expecting a daughter, they moved back to Kalamazoo and he took a job as a Senior Financial Analyst for Stryker.

Thanks to the head start that The Promise gave them, Duisterhof and his wife were able to buy a house and start planning for their growing family.

“Part of the magnitude of all this is that I bought the house young, so I am building equity,” he shared. “We will have our home paid off by the time our daughter graduates high school in 2037. While we will still save money for her, we also know that The Promise will be available. To think about two generations being pretty much free from student loans is life changing.”

In addition to being a professional and a father, Duisterhof is also focused on leaving a positive impression on the next generation.

“I recently got involved with Big Brothers and Big Sisters. I want to make an impact on a young boy’s life and tell them that they matter or help them reach their potential in any way I can,” he added.

According to Duisterhof, this drive to be a force for good was instilled in him while attending Kalamazoo Central.

“In addition to a solid education, KPS is a very enriching experience culturally and socially,” he said. “In high school, I really gained a deeper appreciation and understanding of people that were different than me.

“Too often, we are afraid of what we don’t know or what is unfamiliar to us. I couldn’t be more thankful for the experiences I had at KPS. They really shaped who I am today.”

We are happy to hear that The Promise and KPS have played such a helpful role in your own personal growth and the growth of your family, Joe. Best wishes to you and your expanding family!

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