The 10th class of Rusk seniors eligible for the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise scholarship was named on Thursday at the Rusk High School campus. The group of 63 students is set to join the fall 2023 freshman class at Tyler Junior College.

In 2014, a partnership between Citizens 1st Bank, The James I. Perkins Family Foundation and Tyler Junior College established the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise.

The Rusk TJC Citizens Promise, the first scholarship program of its kind in Texas, will fund two years (up to $4,000 per year) at TJC for the top 50% of qualifying seniors.

To qualify, students must graduate from Rusk High School in the top half of their class with a minimum 2.5 GPA, reside in and attend Rusk ISD for grades 11 and 12 and complete the FAFSA by March of their senior year.

James I. Perkins, President and Chairman of the Board of Citizens 1st Bank, who has held those positions since 1971, said he saw a need for such a program after talking to fellow bankers.

“This versatile educational program is primarily designed for the top half of the high school graduation class. Our program, the first in the state of Texas, had begun very successfully,” Perkins said. “In visiting with my friends at an Arkansas Bank, we were convinced this program was outstanding and a good program for East Texas. We believed we had the team work in East Texas to make this program happen.”

The program and TJC recently partnered with UT Tyler to extend the Promise educational benefits.

“According to statistics, we show that in the eight years of operation, over 800 students have participated with very good academic results. We are very pleased to work with the fine team headed by Tyler Junior College with its outstanding President, Dr. Juan Mejia; the nation’s best junior college with its able and high motivated staff,” Perkins said. “And we are pleased to work with the Rusk Independent School district, its fine staff, and the fine Rusk families.”

“We now have the great addition with the outstanding president of UT Tyler, Dr. Kirk Calhoun and UT Tyler to extend the Promise educational benefits,” Perkins added.

Perkins emphasized the importance of education and said he is proud to offer the program in East Texas.

“We have only begun to benefit our country, our state, and East Texas by this program. We are very pleased with the outstanding work of Dr. Juan Mejia and Dr. Kirk Calhoun who is working to extend this program to four years,” he said. “There is no question in anyone’s mind that education is the need for every one of us. There is no finer place to live than our country, Texas, and East Texas.”

“With over 1,000 participants in the program in Smith and Cherokee County, we are just getting started in Texas and East Texas,” Perkins said.

For more information regarding the program, visit the TJC Promise website.


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Multimedia journalist Jessica Payne covers several counties in East Texas. In 2011, she left her hometown Houston for East Texas. In 2016, she left the 9-5 office routine to pursue a passion for sharing inspiring stories and engaging with the community.