Provost Scholarship Winner and Lt. Governor Gilchrist Address Guests at Celebration of Students in Campus Martius Park


On Tuesday, September 15th, Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars (DRDFS) supporters from all over Southeast Michigan gathered in Detroit’s Campus Martius Park for the Celebration of Students. This event highlighted the 30 year milestone of helping local students prepare for life after high school.

In a typical year, DRDFS hosts an annual luncheon with more than 600 supporters and the entire senior class of students. The graduating class is able to network and learn from business and community leaders while being recognized for their three years of success in the Next Level Scholars (NLS) program. This year, due to COVID-19, the event was reinvented with the safety of guests in mind.

The Celebration of Students, Emceed by Paul W. Smith, took place outdoors with an exclusive group of supporters. While opening the program, Board President, William C. Young, recalled the formation of DRDFS by telling guests “30 Years ago, in 1990, a small but determined group decided to help students in Ypsilanti succeed in life after high school. As time went on, more and more students became interested and excited about pursuing a post-secondary education. After experiencing our program changing so many lives at just one high school, we knew we could make an even greater impact on more students throughout Southeast Michigan.” DRDFS evolved a great deal throughout the years, and now serves more than 350 students. Young thanked guests for their support and spoke optimistically about the future of the organization, concluding his speech by announcing to all attendees that DRDFS is “preparing for future growth with your help.”

During the program, guests enjoyed an incredible performance by America’s Got Talent finalists, the Detroit Youth Choir. In addition, Next Level Scholars Program Alumni and winner of the 2020 Provost Scholarship for Business, Huriel Gonzalez-Hernandez, shared his personal impact story. During his speech, Gonzalez-Hernandez spoke about the three years he dedicated to the program, and shared his new perspective as an Alumni, stating “Being a part of NLS has greatly motivated me to pursue my goals. The one-on-one assistance, resources, and encouragement to pursue college and successfully graduate with a degree has been inspiring and life changing. With the opportunities that DRDFS has provided, I am proud to say that I am currently taking classes as a first generation college student at Eastern Michigan University.

Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, Garlin Gilchrist III, addressed Celebration of Students guests via video message, in which he said “I wanted to send a special message on the 30th anniversary of the Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars program; Thank you for the service to the community, the resources you provide, and the examples that you set for our scholars across the region to be successful and to know that college attainment is real and possible. I know how important programs like this are and how much of a difference they can make in people’s lives.”

To conclude the program, Executive Director, Christa Funk, emphasized the impact that DRDFS is making throughout the region despite current challenges of COVID-19. “We have adapted our program to best accommodate our students while they navigate a new learning environment. From enhanced 1:1 advising with a college coach, to 24/7 on-demand tutoring services, and programming to keep our students on the pathway to higher education, we are proud that even during these uncertain times, our students can be sure that DRDFS will be with them every step of the way.” She went on to illustrate DRDFS alumni success data compared with the State of Michigan averages. “Our DRDFS alumni are outpacing their peers state-wide in the areas of post-secondary enrollment, persistence, and graduation.”

To learn more about the metrics above, see a performance by the Detroit Youth Choir, and hear from our speakers, Huriel Gonzalez-Hernandez and Lt. Governor Gilchrist, click here to watch the Celebration of Students video recap.

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