Richmond, Ind. - Randolph County brought 293 third-grade students to Indiana University East today (September 13) for the Randolph County Promise event, “Walk into My Future.”

    The program helps third-grade students and their parents open a College Choice 529 Direct Savings plan, which may be used to pay for education beyond high school.

    When families enroll in the program, the Community Foundation of Randolph County deposits $25 into their account. If students add money to their account during Champion Week in October, they will be eligible to have their contributions matched by members of the community.

    Additionally, every third-grade student received a $1,000 scholarship, provided by IU East, to go toward the costs of college. The scholarship will be available to Randolph County third-grade students who attend IU East as part of the incoming class of 2029.

    IU East hosted “Walk into My Future,” a day of interactive learning and hands-on discovery. The third-graders had a peek at what their future college experience could be like through their experiences.

    IU East Chancellor Kathy Cruz-Uribe said she is proud of IU East’s involvement in the program.

    “Today we get to celebrate the future as each of these students take the step toward a college education,” Cruz-Uribe said. “This event is just one many ways IU East works to fulfill its mission in the region. We hope this event will inspire each of these students to think about what they can be when they grow up, and just as importantly, what they and their families can do now to prepare for that future.”

    The six elementary schools in Randolph County participate in the “Walk into My Future” day at IU East including:

•Deerfield

• Monroe Central

• North Side

• Randolph Southern

• Union

• Willard

    While at IU East, the third-graders explored college through a series of learning stations, toured the campus, and talked with university students, faculty and staff. Faculty led fun activities in the areas of science, nursing, humanities, business and education. Examples of activities are virtual reality demonstrations, astronomy, theater games, germ fighters, fingerprinting, an art hunt, making music, Spanish Bingo, math games and fun with reading.

    Additionally, each student received an “I Did It” certificate and had their photo taken with Rufus the Red Wolf, IU East’s mascot.

    Lisa Jennings, executive director of the Community Foundation of Randolph County, said the event is a collaborative effort.

    “Randolph County Promise is an inspiring opportunity for families to focus on their children’s futures. It is a great way to show children that their family, friends and the Randolph County communities care and believe in them. We partner with IU East to strengthen the Promise with their innovation and to build hope for future careers for our students. We are so appreciative of these collaborative partnerships that will not only impact our youth, but our communities as well. Everyone involved has been amazing,” Jennings said.

    The Promise program is supported by Promise Indiana through the Indiana Youth Institute, the Indiana Education Savings Authority, and Lilly Endowment, Inc., as a combined effort to Increase college and career readiness around the state.

    Carol Mills, coordinator for Randolph County Promise, said the “Walk into My Future” event is an exciting day that provides several opportunities for children to explore, to meet college students and instructors, and to visit campus.

    “The children are very excited because this is their first day of college,” Mills said. “By the end of the day, they’re talking about the different types of things that they could do and the careers they can purse. One little boy last year said he felt like he could do anything after being there, so it is a really exciting day.”

    Mills said the program has provided more than she could hope for, especially going through the event for the first time last year. She said there was a wide variety of stations available to the children so they could explore future careers in different areas including art, news broadcast, nursing, Spanish and more. “It was very involved and the students were very engaged,” Mills said. “The excitement was just very contagious.”

    One of the new incentives this year encourages families to register their third-grade student by September 1. Each of these students are eligible for a $100 deposit to their account from the Randolph County Foundation if their name is drawn. Each school had one name drawn today at IU East. The names not drawn were then combined with all of the schools, with one third-grader’s name drawn for a $529 contribution to their account by the Community Foundation.

    Later this year, third-graders will have another opportunity to add to their individual accounts through Randolph County Foundation incentives. In December and May, a new incentive will provide $10 for every hour a student completes for reading or service in the community - up to $100 - added to their account by the foundation.

    “We want students to take some initiative and work toward their education,” Mills said. “Of course we’re going to help them as much as we can along the way.”

    According to the Promise program, students with a college savings account of $1-$499 are four and one-half times more likely to enroll in and complete college than those with no college savings accounts, yet only 11.7 percent of Indiana students have those accounts.

    Cruz-Uribe said IU East is committed to helping third-graders across Randolph County achieve their dreams of one day attending college.

    “I’m a big proponent of what Randolph County Promise is working to achieve,” she said. “We hope to see many of these students years from now when they return to campus as part of our incoming class of 2029.”

    “This is just the best thing to come to Randolph County students in my lifetime. I really encourage all Randolph County families to get their third-grader enrolled in the 529 plan if they haven’t done that,” Mills said.

    Registration is available online for Randolph County third-graders at: randolphcountyfoundation.org or email Carol Mills at cmills@randolphcountyfoundation.org.