Cycling for success

The Hormel Foundation, Riverland Community College, and Austin’s K-12 school systems are teaming up to push local students to finish high school and attend college.

The partnership — announced Wednesday morning — is called “Cycles of Success” and leans on a $1 million Riverland scholarship fund provided by The Hormel Foundation.

Dick Knowlton, chair of The Hormel Foundation’s board of directors, said at the conference Wednesday that $200,000 will be provided to graduates of Austin and Pacelli high schools annually for the next five years.

Dr. Terry Leas, Riverland’s president, called the foundation’s gift a “milestone in the history of Riverland Community College.”

He added: “It will transform the way that we do education at the college.”

The program is designed to target traditionally underrepresented students — those who are low-income, whose parents did not go to college, who identify as belonging to a racial or ethnic minority or who will graduate in the middle of their class — at the middle and high school levels, and begin to prepare them for college.

The second step is to remove financial barriers and allow these students to go onto post-secondary education via The Hormel Foundation funds, Leas said.

Cycles of Success administrators will help these students attain federal and state aid and other scholarships when possible, before dipping into The Hormel Foundation funds. The college is also in the process of applying for matching grants.

The goal, Leas said, is to invest in the community by providing employers with a skilled workforce in high-wage, high-demand occupations.

“We’ve had this goal in sight for a number of years,” Knowlton said. “We are very proud of the ways in which we’ve been able to move through each phase of the education system… It is here and it is time.”