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Connections to Home Create a Promising Future

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William Derouin

On Tuesday, we told you about Janice Brown, Director Emeritus for The Kalamazoo Promise, and why she chooses to call Kalamazoo home. This week, we sat down with a recipient of the universal scholarship program, William Derouin, to find out how The Promise shaped his future and cemented his roots in Kalamazoo.

A Kalamazoo Public Schools graduate, Derouin began attending Kalamazoo Valley Community College during high school and put his scholarship funds to use upon graduation.

"I attended KVCC in high school, starting at age 15," he said.

By the age of 19, he had earned an associate's degree in Illustration from KVCC and was ready to use his remaining scholarship funds locally.

"Western Michigan University was my default university pick after completing my program at KVCC. I finished KVCC by age 19 and was looking to continue my schooling and WMU was the only school I applied for. My high school grades were below average and I did not feel confident-financially or academically-applying to other institutions," Derouin said.

"The costs related with living in another city and attending school were too unrealistic. I was able to live with my family for several years to save on room and board and focus on my schooling rather than having to work to support my needs."

Full-time college would not have been an option for Derouin without The Promise.

"The Kalamazoo Promise made the choice to attend college full-time a feasible option," he said. "The scholarship program funded my first four years of post-high school college."

After receiving a bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies and Geography with a Resource Management and Environmental Analysis focus, Derouin now works for his alma mater as Permaculture Coordinator at WMU's Office for Sustainability.

"I manage three to five interns working on permaculture-sustainable land use-projects ranging from native plant landscaping to campus gardening and shiitake mushroom production" he said.

Derouin also had the chance to cultivate his interest in permaculture and environmental projects as a result of not having to worry about paying for the majority of his college costs.

"The Kalamazoo Promise really made it possible to become fully involved on campus in my first few years by founding a student group and working on campus projects as a student. This ability to take time to dedicate to my interests-rather than into more employment to fund my college experience-has guided me into the full-time position I now hold at WMU," he said.

"This scholarship can provide the flexibility and financial confidence to pursue your passions during your higher education. This type of financial/temporal freedom given to a young and educated population, I believe, can help transform a community."

Outside of work, Derouin has also helped to start community garden projects throughout Kalamazoo, including a new garden in the heart of Kalamazoo, near Arcadia Creek Festival Place, that will welcome its first gardeners in 2014.

Derouin likes being a part of positive changes within the community.

"I enjoy spending time with other locals and talking about the changes we have seen in Kalamazoo since the 1990s. The downtown area has been transformed," he said, "and it is amazing to think of the relative ghost town it was just 15 years ago.

"Sharing the story of positive growth and redevelopment in Kalamazoo with other locals is a great way to stay connected."

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