A promise to keep

Helping New Haven students get to college.

Melissa Bailey ’04/ <i>New Haven Independent</i>

Melissa Bailey ’04/ New Haven Independent

All-American runner Patricia Melton ’83 is back in town to run New Haven Promise, a scholarship and support program for local public school students. View full image

It was a chance comment from a friend of a friend in eighth grade that alerted Patricia Melton ’83 to an opportunity she had never heard of—and which eventually took her to Yale, as the first person in her family to graduate from college. Melton is now the director of New Haven Promise—a two-year-old nonprofit that, with funding from Yale, pays college tuition for many New Haven public school students. She plans to help New Haven children and their families find their own opportunities.

Melton, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, lost her mother in a car accident when she was 12; she and two siblings moved in with their 25-year-old sister. She did well academically in middle school but wanted more. That’s when she happened to hear about A Better Chance, a program that matched talented students of color with boarding schools looking to increase their diversity. She got a scholarship to Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, and from there it was on to Yale, where she joined the track team and became an All-American runner.

Since then, Melton has worked in education, finding ways to keep underserved low-income students in school and get them into college. Most recently, she was at Vincennes University in Indianapolis, where she ran a program in which students supplement their high school education by taking college courses and graduating with an associate’s degree.

Melton says New Haven Promise is about more than money. Yes, it will pay some or all tuition at a Connecticut college for any New Haven public school student who has maintained a 3.0 grade average and 90 percent attendance and done 40 hours of community service. (The longer a student has been in the New Haven school system, the greater the tuition percentage.) But Melton says the program will also be working with parents and schools to get students prepared from the very beginning—“finding the resources that will help them,” she says, starting as early as kindergarten. “Our goal is to get them all the way through.” 


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