BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Battle Creek Public Schools has launched a new scholarship that covers up to 100% of college tuition and fees for eligible graduates, BCPS announced Wednesday.

The Bearcat Advantage scholarship, a partnership between BCPS and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, starts with this year’s graduating class. It covers up to 100% of tuition and required fees at any college or university in Michigan, public or private, or at nearly 100 historically Black colleges or universities across the U.S.

“I want to make sure you heard me that today, starting with the class of 2023, we will pay for your college education,” said BCPS Superintendent Kimberly Carter at a Decision Day event Wednesday. “That means that if you even have family members and friends that are in middle school, elementary or even preschool, they, too, will have access to this new scholarship. Congratulations to you all.”

Scholarship proportions are awarded on a sliding scale according to how long students have been enrolled at BCPS. A student who has attended BCPS from kindergarten through 12th grade can receive a 100% scholarship, while a student who has attended BCPS for all four years of high school can receive a 65% scholarship.

“The longer you’ve been at Battle Creek Public Schools, the more scholarship you’ll receive,” Carter said.

After they graduate, students have up to six years to use their scholarships in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.

“Those of you who’ll be walking across the stage next week have access to scholarship dollars that we hope will help you continue your education so that you can take on the world with the knowledge, tools and skills you need to succeed in whatever you choose to pursue, without any financial barrier holding you back,” Carter said.

Angelo Williams, a junior at Battle Creek Central High School, said it feels surreal. Even though he already planned on going to college to be a dermatologist, the money will help ease a lot of the stress of student loans.

“I think obviously it means a lot like professionally, financially… but emotionally, I think it’s where the significance really lies with a lot of kids,” he said. “Especially black and brown kids, predominantly at BCPS. It’s that feeling that you could be the first one to graduate college or set yourself up for generational wealth for your kids or your grandkids in the future, really is the significance here I think.”

In 2017, WKKF made a five-year, $51 million investment in the district to increase racial equity and help children succeed.

“This (scholarship) will change your life, and I know that because a similar opportunity changed my life,” said WKKF President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron at the same event. “And right now I’m standing here with goosebumps, because I know what this will mean for you and future generations and for this great community of Battle Creek.”

Tabron said she attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit and had to choose between two “great” opportunities after high school. Ultimately, she chose to attend the University of Michigan because she believed it opened more options for her.

“You now have options open for you. You have choices to make,” Tabron told BCPS students. “You have been afforded opportunities to dream big, and I encourage you to do that.”

More information about the Bearcat Advantage scholarship can be found at the district’s website.

News 8’s Taylor Morris contributed to this report.