Cristian Rodriguez and Taylor Counts don’t know each other, but they share something special that will forever link them.

They are in the first class of Flint students to receive a Flint Promise scholarship, a locally driven initiative designed to offer Flint students more post-secondary education opportunities.

The two students, who just finished up their first year at Mott Community College in Flint, also share appreciation for their opportunity.

“If it wasn’t for the Flint Promise scholarship, going to college would’ve been a challenge since my family and I would’ve been saddled with student debt and I really didn’t want to do that to my family,” said Rodriguez, who plans on taking classes in financing and working three jobs this summer.

“I prayed that I would be able to go to college and then I found out about this great scholarship. I want to thank the people who have made this possible from the bottom of my heart. I make sure I count my blessings every day.”

‘This Will Be My Chance’

Last year, the Consumers Energy Foundation awarded its largest grant ever, giving $1 million to the Flint Promise Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint.

The scholarship is available to Flint residents graduating from high school or a GED program in Flint in 2018 or later and will cover up to 100 percent of remaining tuition and book fees after other scholarships and grants are applied.

Students may use the scholarship at Kettering University, Mott Community College and the University of Michigan-Flint.

Counts, who graduated from Southwestern Classical Academy, wanted to attend college but knew that it would be a financial hurdle.

“My future was a little bit hazy at best,” said Counts, who plans on majoring in business management.

Counts was elated to learn about the Flint Promise scholarship from her high school guidance counselor.

“I thought to myself, ‘this will be my chance to make college attendance a reality,’” she said. “It couldn’t have worked out better. Things fell in line. I feel most thankful.”

Next Chapter in Success Story

Rodriguez and Counts each have one year left at Mott. Both will likely go to the University of Michigan-Flint.

Rodriguez, who graduated from Powers Catholic High School, said his college challenges helped him realize he isn’t alone.

“Every high school student who wants to go to college should be able to, but unfortunately that’s not the case,” Rodriguez said. “Money shouldn’t get in the way of somebody bettering themselves through education.”

Counts already has her sights set on life after graduation.

“I want to stay in Flint,” she said. “I feel that’s the best way that I can give back to a community that I love. Nobody knows what the future holds, but I am excited to see what’s next.”