Mornings at Southside Elementary School have a unique way of getting started.

    “The pig comes out of the office each morning and squeals over the PA,” principal Craig Campbell told members of the local school board during a recent meeting.

    Craig said it was all about Feeding the Pig and increasing the amount of money in each child’s CollegeChoice 529 account through the Blackford County Promise Program.

    During the month of October, kindergartners reached out to five Champions (any family, friend, neighbor or community member who contributes money and/or encouragement to a child) who were asked to donate at least $5 to their account. Children who were able to raise $25 for their account before the end of the month had an additional $50 deposited into their accounts.

    Blackford County Promise allows each child to setup a savings account to be used for education after high school. Local officials chose to help students get started with that education plan by initiating the Blackford County Promise program in 2016. At that time, all kindergarten through third-grade students were invited to open a CollegeChoice 529 savings account. The Blackford County Community Foundation then contributed $25 to each new account. When the child’s family or “champion” added another $25, the Foundation provided an additional $50 match.

    Funds can be used for many higher education expenses, including tuition, fees and certain room and board costs. This includes two-and four-year colleges, graduate schools (including law and medical), and vocational/technical schools.

    Funds can be used at any eligible school around the country and abroad—not just in Indiana.

    The Blackford County Promise program does not stop with just financial planning and support. In partnership with Blackford County Schools, the Promise program initiates activities that focus on college and career goal setting activities. One such activity was a field trip to a college campus as part of the comprehensive program to encourage planning for career education.  Kindergarteners visited Taylor University on Sept. 26 for a day of inspiration and dreaming. Four students – two from Southside and two from Montpelier Elementary – also each won an additional $529 deposited to their Promise account as part of a Promise drawing.

    Craig told school board members that it has been shown that students who have $500 or more in a savings account are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.

    “ It’s an awesome thing to be a part of,” Craig said.

    Elizabeth Witt, who oversees the Promise Program for the Blackford County Community Foundation said there were 615 students currently participating in the program and that there were 87 kindergartners from Montpelier and Southside elementary schools who were enrolling in the program.  Last year, 62 percent of Blackford County students participated in the program.

    She added that Blackford County was one of only 20 communities in the state of Indiana that was participating in the program.

    “We are way ahead of the pack,” Witt said, adding that the county was quite honored to be among the few communities selected to initiate the program.

    Substantial donations from local businesses, organizations and individuals allow Blackford County Promise to provide donations to students’ 529 accounts and to support the career planning activities.

    Anyone wanting to contribute, should call or visit the Blackford County Community Foundation at 121 N. High Street, Hartford City, at (765) 348-3411.

    For more information go to www.blackfordcountypromise.org.