College wasn’t on Elijah Daniel’s personal radar screen in 2018.
He certainly did not expect not only his collegiate future, but the entire trajectory of his life, to change, as well. But that is exactly what happened. DRDFS would help Elijah grow as an individual and as a student, helping him develop and refine the tools that would enable him to make the most of his natural charisma by becoming a skilled communicator and a college-ready student.
“Three years ago? I was not remotely ready. Today I’m a very different person—and DRDFS has a lot to do with that.”
It’s a sign of just how much DRDFS has made an impact on Elijah that he has trouble deciding on his favorite part of the program. Two things he circles back to, however, are the sophisticated SAT preparation assistance and etiquette and communications training: both elements of the DRDFS program that he sees as vital and practical skills for an aspiring college student.
“Knowing how to speak to and engage with not just your peers, but with professionals and people in college and beyond is so important. There are programs to help you with that in college, but DRDFS gave me an invaluable head start. The practical skills I learned and developed through DRDFS are already helping me build and maintain long-lasting relationships.”
His DRDFS experiences sparked a passion for communication that continues with Elijah today. A self-described quiet kid who never used to talk, Elijah is a buoyant and compelling communicator who knows how to connect with a listener and engage an audience. His enthusiasm is obvious, and the clarity of his answers does justice to the depth of his keen insights.
Clarity is a consistent theme for Elijah, who was able to tell almost immediately on a DRDFS-sponsored tour of Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing that it was where he wanted to go to college.
“I’m big on energy. If I get a good feeling and the energy is right, I’m all in. MSU was our first college tour. I remember just feeling so happy. It truly felt like I was home. My friends would joke with me about it and my response was always the same: I’m going here. I made a vow to myself that the next time I came back to MSU it would be for an orientation as a new student. And then I went to work.”
Sure enough, Elijah applied for early admission and was accepted to MSU.
“That wasn’t the only college I got into, but it was the only one for me. It felt like it was meant to be.”
He not only applied early, he enrolled early, with a scholarship that allowed him to start taking summer classes—and he remains ahead of schedule, slated to graduate from MSU a semester early.
When he had a chance to apply to be a DRDFS intern, Elijah was similarly decisive in seizing the opportunity.
“I think about one of my heroes and fellow Spartans, Magic Johnson. Magic obviously started off as a basketball player, then moved to the front office and became a business owner. As an alumnus, I will always be a part of the DRDFS program. And my experience there was so positive that I was actively looking for ways to stay involved. So, when the internship program presented itself, I jumped at the chance to apply.”
That internship gave Elijah the chance to expand and refine his communication skills, to work in a professional environment and to connect with people of different backgrounds and perspectives. It gave him new tools and new opportunities to challenge himself and broaden his personal and professional toolkit in ways that continue to open doors for him.
And now he wants to do the same for others.
“When you get into any program, or any school, the first thing I tell young people is how important it is to know what you want. No one can tell you what you want or figure it out for you. Once you take that critical first step on your own, there are people and programs that can help you go from there and get you started walking the path to achieve your goals.”
Elijah says he is committed to educating other kids like him who might want this opportunity—or who might not even know it exists. He encourages students to believe in themselves and to align themselves with a program—and people—that believes in them. Elijah knows firsthand how a little belief and support can have a life-altering impact.
“This program and the people around it have had such a profound influence on me. DRDFS hasn’t just changed my outlook—it’s changed my life.”
As he prepared for his high school graduation, Next Level Scholar, Kelvin Hasanaj, spoke with Fox 2 News reporter, Ingrid Kelley, about the challenges he faced during his journey of moving to the United States in the 10th grade, learning English and now graduating high school and continuing on to college.
Courtney Carrol, his Adviser, remarked on how proud she was of him. “He’s grown so much,” she said. “Just the difference in when he started to now, is huge. And I do think Dollars for Scholars and the relationships that he built has a lot to do with that.”
As Christa Funk, DRDFS Executive Director, described how DRDFS works to inspire students and prepare them for success after high school, Clintondale Principal, Meloney Cargill, commented, “We’ve seen the benefit for all of our students and hopefully one day the program can expand to include more of our students.”
Click here to see the full story. DRDFS is extremely proud of Kelvin’s success and will continue to support him on his educational journey. Congratulations, Kelvin!
Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars has so much to celebrate this spring!
In March, we saw many of you at the 9th Annual Celebration Luncheon. Governor Whitmer joined us and recognized DRDFS’s efforts to help build a stronger community focused on education. We are so grateful for all the support we received, making this our most successful luncheon to date, raising over $845,000!
This spring, we were also proud to announce the addition of our 15th partner high school, Redford Union. They will be joining over 400 Next Scholar students this fall with the addition of the Class of 2025. We are excited to continue expanding our program to break down barriers for even more students.
In April, we hosted our first in-person event welcoming more than 100 students to the Next Level Scholars program. The Class of 2024 joined us on Eastern Michigan University’s campus for Project Runway, a day which included leadership training, a campus tour, a DRDFS alumni panel, a career Q&A, and more! Our sophomores went home feeling inspired about their journey ahead to postsecondary education.
On May 4th, we celebrated the Class of 2022 at Suited for Success, our College Decision Day event. As each senior walked to the podium and announced their plans for the future, the room was filled with applause and cheers from their family and friends. We are so excited for each of our students as they begin post-secondary education, and are grateful to continue our support through one-on-one alumni coaching.
Finally, we celebrate you—our supporters, our donors, and our partners. This spring, Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars will have awarded over 1,700 students more than $3 million in scholarships since 1990. It is your support that makes these moments and these scholarships possible. Thank you!
Madison High School (MHS) has been a partner school of Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars since 2015. It is one of our smaller partner high schools with enrollment of about 300 students. As a school of choice, over 40% of the population are students from communities outside of Madison Heights.
In spite of their small size, MHS offers many clubs and sports teams that are popular with students. They also benefit from many additional programs offered at the school. The General Motors (GM) Internship Program is one such program where students work on projects around the school with GM’s support.
Like so many schools, Madison struggled during COVID and experienced student and staff turnover. Cheyenne Serrato, Madison’s Next Level Scholars Program Adviser, stated that getting back to in-person learning has been instrumental in rebuilding student involvement and school spirit. The students and staff are also excited about a recent bond that passed which will result in some needed building repairs and updates happening over the summer.
“The teachers and staff at Madison are dedicated and committed to the school and the students,” Cheyenne Serrato said. “They are here to make a difference for these kids. Many Madison students want to continue their education after high school and we are committed to helping them achieve their goal.”
Since MHS began in the Next Level Scholars Program, their students have received instruction and support, and have been awarded $144,000 in scholarships from Dollars for Scholars. This year, Madison senior Ahmad Naeem, was named a Kuzak Scholarship recipient. This competitive scholarship provides $50,000 over four years to a student who wants to study at the University of Detroit Mercy.
Patricia Perry, Madison’s new principal, stated, “Things are rebuilding and renewing at Madison and we are excited to be a part of that process. Dollars for Scholars offers a great opportunity for our students. I love the program.”
On May 4th, the Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars Class of 2022 gathered at Laurel Manor for Suited for Success, where the seniors announced their postsecondary plans.
The evening began with a panel of three Next Level Scholars alumni who shared their paths to college through to their current careers, giving students a glimpse of what their futures could be. Afterward, the students joined with family and friends for some refreshments before gathering to celebrate the big announcements.
The festivities began with Gail Tubbs, a retired University of Michigan Senior Admissions Counselor, who offered inspiring words to the graduates, encouraging them to recognize their talents and “G.O.A.T.-ness” (Greatest of All Time). The Dollars for Scholars Advisers were then honored for their hard work and dedication. Next, student speaker Josh Arzola thanked the Dollars for Scholars staff and commended his fellow students for owning their chosen paths.
Finally, it was time for the seniors to take the spotlight. Family and friends applauded as each student stood at the podium and announced what they would be doing after high school. As each student made their declaration, their peers hoisted posters, waved pompons, and blew horns. While supporting each student’s decision, the schools were also demonstrating their school spirit for the Scholar Spirit Award. In the end, Melvindale prevailed and emerged as the winner.
It was a wonderful evening celebrating the rewards of hard work and commitment. All of us here at Dollars for Scholars are so proud of our resilient seniors. Congratulations to the Class of 2022!
Click here to see a video highlight of the event!