Overcoming the Challenges of College with the Flint Promise Success Coaches


After earning his associate degree from Mott Community College earlier this year, Jaquay Renfro is now in his first year at his dream school: Kettering University.

“If it weren’t for the Flint Promise, none of this would be happening for me,” said Renfro, who is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering with plans to own his own automotive production company one day. “I wouldn’t be at this school. I wouldn’t be in my co-op program with American Axel and Engineering. And I wouldn’t be getting all of this hands-on experience or making so many important connections.”

According to Renfro, it’s not just the financial support of the Flint Promise that led him to where he is today. The scholarship covers up to 100 percent of a student’s tuition and book fees after federal grants and other scholarships are applied. But, perhaps equally important, it connects each student with a success coach to assist them with academic and personal support.

“My success coach is always there for me,” says Renfro, a graduate of Southwestern Classical Academy. “Sometimes I talk to her once or twice a month. Other times, every day. But whenever I need her, I know that I can call her, and she’ll be there to help.”

According to Renfro, his Flint Promise success coach connected him with a tutor when he found himself slipping behind in Calculus 2, assisted him with financial aid struggles and served as a sounding board when he’s had to make difficult decisions.

Renfro isn’t alone. Currently, there are 135 students enrolled in the scholarship program, which is available at Kettering University, Mott Community College and the University of Michigan-Flint. Each student is assigned a success coach, who provides support and helps remove barriers where possible.

Last year, for instance, when a Flint Promise scholar needed to obtain his license to be able to drive to his co-op program, his success coach helped him schedule a test at the Secretary of State. Additionally, this year, amidst the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, the Flint Promise staff has walked several students through the process of getting health insurance.

“If a student is struggling in a class, our coaches will connect them with a tutor,” said James Avery, director of Education & Training at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, which administers the scholarship program. “If they’re food insecure or don’t have a place to live, the coaches will connect them with local resources for that, too. Whatever obstacles they face that could interfere with their learning, our team is here to help overcome them.”

This resource is especially important for a program where at least 26 percent of its scholars are first-generation college students.

“When you’re the first in your family to go to college, navigating the college experience can be challenging,” said Holly Avery, one of four Flint Promise success coaches, along with Lou Rawls, James Washington and Dennis Williams-Mitchell. “We’re here to walk them through the process, whether that’s helping them complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or tour the campus before school starts.”

The Flint Promise scholarship program is designed for students who live in the city of Flint and graduate or from a high school located in the city of Flint or earn a GED. To learn more about the scholarship, or to apply, visit theflintpromise.org.