DRDFS alumni Mike Zlonkevicz grew up in a room painted maize and blue in honor of the University of Michigan football team’s colors. As the first in his family to go to college, not only was a post-high-school academic path not a priority, it wasn’t even on his radar at the time.

With DRDFS, however, that all changed.

“Just the exposure to the college experience was hugely helpful. College trips, scholarship opportunities, you name it. Those early experiences with DRDFS really opened my eyes and broadened my horizons in so many ways.”

It wasn’t just college applications and academics, either. From volunteer work and charitable initiatives to unique networking opportunities, Mike was able to give back to Detroit, the city he had fallen in love with as a child—and to connect with new people and new experiences.

“We cleaned alleyways downtown and worked with local organizations to help build homes and revitalize communities.”

There was one memorable moment stuck with him in particular: a DRDFS luncheon where he had an opportunity to speak with Kurtis T. Wilder, a Michigan graduate who was the first African American judge elected in Washtenaw County and someone who would not only go on to serve on the Michigan First District Court of Appeals, but also the Michigan State Supreme Court.

“He talked to me about my aspirations and shared some perspective from his own career. He encouraged me to follow my heart: to do what I love and let the finances fall into place.”

Mike took Judge Wilder’s advice to heart. His passion for psychology and for communicating and engaging with people is now part of his everyday experience. Today, he is an Account Executive at Brooksource, an IT services and staffing solutions provider for Fortune 500 companies. As a hiring professional, Mike still quotes some of the wisdom he heard at that luncheon and at other events like it.

A 2016 graduate of Ida High School in Monroe, Michigan, Mike was a member of the first class from his high school to join the DRDFS network. His connections to the program didn’t end there. He was involved as a college student, a program alum, and now as a working professional where he is an enthusiastic advocate for the DRDFS mission. Sitting in a seat where he focuses on hiring and talks to people early in their careers who are coming from a range of different backgrounds, he is in an ideal position to pass that passion and perspective on to others.

“DRDFS means a lot to me. Not just because of what the program has done for me personally, but for the ways in which I see it opening up new opportunities for so many smart, hard-working, and talented young people who need and deserve a hand.”

Mike sees how the young people that DRDFS supports are part of an untapped and underutilized pipeline of talent that will help drive the future of Detroit. As someone who loves the city he calls home, keeping talented young professionals in Detroit is a worthwhile and valuable mission to Mike.

“I’m very much aware of the real-life impact of DRDFS. I’ve lived it! So I know that this is an organization that is helping those who deserve the help and who haven’t traditionally had access to the resources they need for one reason or another—whether systematically, socially, or financially.”

In his line of work, Mike sees how pernicious and pervasive those cycles can be. Which is why DRDFS’s proven ability to break that cycle is so exciting to him and why he loves not just being be a part of that story, but also helping to perpetuate that mission in his own work.

“People that have unconventional journeys are just as valuable—and I want to make sure that they are just as valued. DRDFS is focused on making sure they have the resources to achieve their potential.”

Mike feels that he is in the position to help make a difference today because of DRDFS. The impact and influence that DRDFS has had on him makes it possible for him to pass that passion and perspective on to others.

“I want to do as much as I can for DRDFS because of how much they are doing for people in communities across Southeast Michigan. I’m just one person, of course, but if I can help break the cycle, pay it forward, and help others in the process, that’s something I feel really good about.”

Translate »
DFDFS 30 Year Logo

Join our mailing list to receive the latest DRDFS news and updates.

You have Successfully Subscribed!