Testimonials from first-year college students reveals the impact of DRDFS’ post-secondary support

The goal of Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars (DRDFS) is to inspire, prepare, and empower students to succeed in life after high school. That goal doesn’t end when a high school student graduates. While DRDFS program participants are empowered and equipped with the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to thrive, the first year a student’s post-secondary journey can be intimidating and isolating.

That’s why DRDFS’ Next Level Scholars Program (NLS) features a holistic approach that includes not only extensive preparation, education, and support while in high school, but ongoing support and access to resources to make sure high school graduates are thriving in their post-secondary environments. Inspire, prepare, and succeed encapsulate the DRDFS approach.

Inspire

The first step is to help students see themselves on a post-secondary campus and believe they are capable of accomplishing big things. DRDFS makes it possible for students to explore the options and opportunities available to them, and to begin learning about the financial aid, leadership skills, and admissions requirements that will help them achieve their goals.

Prepare

High school students participate in programming that includes tailored campus visits, post-secondary college application assistance, financial aid education and awareness, etiquette and networking workshops, FAFSA completion, leadership development, and SAT preparation. Each of these elements is designed to break down the academic, social-emotional, and financial barriers to post-secondary success.

Succeed

Student success begins in high school, with growing confidence that comes with new skills, new relationships, and a deeper understanding of what it takes to succeed at the next level. But one of the things that makes DRDFS so remarkable—and so successful—is the extent to which that support endures well after high school graduation. From personal mentoring to financial assistance, to resources designed specifically to meet the needs of students as they begin their lives after high school, the support for DRDFS students is extensive and impactful.

For Amanda Amir, the support she received from DRDFS during her transition to college has benefitted her academically, socially, and even financially. Amanda, a DRDFS NLS student who graduated in 2023 from Stevenson High School in Sterling Heights, speaks passionately about that support, particularly the relationship with her DRDFS post-secondary transition coach.

“Having my DRDFS coach to lean on has been so incredible. I know I can text her at any time. When I was thinking about switching my major and I was super stressed out, she really helped talk me through it. I even took her suggestion and took some summer classes to make sure I didn’t fall behind.”

Amanda, a student at Oakland University, notes that college is very different from high school, especially because she is a first-generation college student. The support from her DRDFS Post-Secondary Transition Coach and other NLS scholars she was able to connect with at Oakland have helped her navigate the new environment and adjust to those differences. Amanda references how the mental health tips DRDFS shares and the college skills book designed specifically for new college students are resources she has been grateful to have in her corner. She even utilized the DRDFS Scholar Success Fund when her car broke down.

“There are so many messages between me and my coach—and I feel so much better about where I am today. I know that it’ll be okay, and if I am struggling, I’ll have her support.”

Salvadore Garcia is a NLS scholar who graduated from Melvindale High School in Allen Park and is currently a business major in University of Detroit-Mercy’s five-year MBA program. Salvadore said that ongoing support and regular check-ins with DRDFS are meaningful and extremely helpful.

“My DRDFS coach was so fantastic. She was actually the one who first let me know that I had gotten the scholarship I needed to come to Detroit-Mercy. She checked in throughout the year, to ask how classes are going, if I need anything, and just reminding me that the DRDFS team has my back.”

Salvadore loved the DRDFS experience in high school, specifically noting the Suited for Success event, the campus visits, and scholarship application help. But the network of NLS post-secondary students and alumni he has been in contact with since being in college has reaffirmed for him that the third pillar of the DRDFS inspire, prepare, succeed approach will continue well into the future.

“When I see the alumni groups and how close their bonds are, it puts me in a great state of mind for the future. When I meet with other alumni from the program, I feel like I will always have someone to relate to—and someone to help me out if I need it.”

Amanda and Salvadore’s perspectives highlight the enduring impact of DRDFS and how the program transforms not only college prospects but also makes a lasting difference in students’ lives.

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