Marketea Abbott wants to give back.
As one of seven adopted siblings in a family of ten children, she is keenly aware of how fortunate and blessed she has been, benefitting not only from the care and attention of a loving and supportive family, but also from the structure and guidance she received as a participant in the Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars (DRDFS) Next Level Scholars Program.
In her words: “DRDFS has had a profound and positive influence on me personally, and it’s so rewarding to have an opportunity to share that with others and help them have the same positive experience.”
Today, as a DRDFS post-secondary transition coach, Marketea is able to do just that. Since joining the team in 2020, Marketea works to engage with high school students to help prepare them for the next phase of their educational path, whether that is attending a college or university, enlisting in the military or a joining a trade school or apprentice program. Marketea provides outreach, coaching, and guidance based on each student’s unique post-secondary plans. She works daily with her students in a mentorship role that starts at the beginning of their senior year and continues through the end of the first year of their post-secondary journey—and sometimes even beyond.
She coordinates a wide range of senior-focused programming and experiences—from helping students navigate the complexities of financial aid and scholarship applications to mapping out additional career options—and continues to support students through the first year of their post-secondary path by making sure they are doing well, helping them resolve any issues, and working with them to clarify and pursue their long-term goals.
She cites fostering ongoing connections as the most rewarding aspect of her role at DRDFS.
“Building those relationships is the best part of my job. I get to be there with these impressive young people, for years in some cases, and it’s so wonderful and rewarding to see them overcome obstacles, explore and fulfill their potential, and grow and flourish over time.
Those relationships are sustained through multiple touchpoints: emails, check-in phone calls, coffee meetups and campus visits, and pop-up celebrations to recognize everything from small successes to noteworthy milestones.
Because she knows firsthand the uncertainty and information gap that so many students face, her personal knowledge and experience make her a relatable and extremely effective resource.
“My advisor always did a great job in conversations with me of asking me questions and getting me thinking. She made sure I was approaching situations with the right mindset, that I understood both the opportunities and obligations that come with being a college student, and, ultimately, that I was equipped with the tools I needed to learn and grow and advocate for myself. I’m so thrilled to be able to play that same kind of role in the lives of my students.”
One of the most important personal and professional priorities for Marketea is finding a community. That goal is part of her own DRDFS origin story. One of the things that first inspired her to apply for the Next Level Scholars program was the discovery that a favorite student teacher in her middle school English class, Christa Funk, was now DRDFS’s Executive Director.
“It helped me feel good about applying to the program. It not only made me feel comfortable, but also inspired. It was so impactful to talk and interact with Christa and see her be so clearly invested in my own success.”
It’s a big reason why Marketea is so focused today on not just getting her students on campus, but making sure they feel valued and that they find their own community once they are there—both inside and outside the classroom. To that end, she encourages all students to be ready and willing to go out of their comfort zone.
“This program can do so many amazing things for all of our students, but being willing to be uncomfortable and to challenge yourself gives you the chance to not only get so much more out of the program—but also out of yourself.”
She knows firsthand the value of that community because it’s still paying dividends in her own professional journey. Marketea has long had an interest in social work. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. As she starts to work on her master’s degree in an accelerated one-year program, DRDFS has been flexible and supportive in making that possible while she continues to work full-time.
“Their dedication to me as a program alum, an employee, and as a person has been truly wonderful. It’s something I know I’m going to lean on in a year
that will certainly be full of challenges. And it’s something I know I will continue to pay forward in my own work with DRDFS Next Level Scholars students.”