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!
Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars (DRDFS) received a COVID-19 Response Grants from Michigan College Access Network (MCAN). These grants are to help support emergent post-secondary projects and programs in their communities.
DRDFS will use the grant to help fund the programming for the Class of 2020 Next Level Scholars.
Click here to view MCAN’s announcement.
For the first time since 2019, over 600 supporters and donors gathered at the University of Detroit Mercy to celebrate the Class of 2022 at the 9th Annual Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars (DRDFS) Celebration Luncheon. Emcee Paul W. Smith began the celebration by welcoming and thanking everyone for their support of Dollars for Scholars. He was echoed by William C. Young, President of DRDFS, who acknowledged, “We would not be where we are today without our donors and community supporters. Thank you for believing and investing in the futures of our deserving students.”
After Jacqueline M. Baker, who coached the students on leadership and etiquette, introduced the Class of 2022, student speaker Katelyn Saffo took the podium. She shared that she will be a first generation college student when she attends Wayne State University in the fall. Kaitlyn spoke of the support she received from Dollars for Scholars and how grateful she was to everyone who encouraged her journey. Kaitlyn stated, “Dollars for Scholars has changed my life. I can honestly say that it was the best high school decision that I have made. Thanks to Dollars for Scholars, my path is set and I’m on my way to reach success.”
Executive Director Christa Funk provided an update of how DRDFS safely returned to in-person programming and continued to support Next Level Scholar students and alumni. The Alumni Emergency Fund, implemented in 2020, has continued to financially assist alumni, allowing them to stay in college. In addition, due to the success of the post-secondary transition coaching model, a second coach was added for the Class of 2022.
Lastly, Governor Gretchen Whitmer talked about Michigan’s “Sixty by Thirty” goal; to have 60% of Michigan’s adult population have a post-secondary certificate or degree by 2030. She spoke of the importance of DRDFS’s impact, and addressed the students saying, “The training you have received through Dollars for Scholars has set you up for success and you are going to write your story.” She acknowledged the students’ resilience and hard work, and encouraged them by saying, “I promise you, you already possess everything you need to chase the things that you want. Today more than ever, I feel confident that the state of Michigan’s future is bright. I believe — we all believe in you.
Paul W. Smith closed the event by acknowledging all who made the Celebration Luncheon possible, especially the Doctorate Sponsors, Barton Malow, PR Ziegler, Inc. Life Insurance, Ambassador Ronald Weiser, Wells Fargo and The Young Family Foundation.
Mark your calendars for next year, March 8, 2023, when we will be commemorating 10 years of celebrating together!
Click here to see highlights of Gov. Whitmer’s speech.
Click here to learn more about Gov. Whitmer’s “Sixty by Thirty” Goal.
Post-secondary Coach, Marketea Abbott and Next Level Scholar, Lina Karteet, were featured by WXYZ Detroit in a story highlighting the challenges of first-generation students and how Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars is helping them. Freshmen juggling financial aid, campus life, class schedules and professors, can find it challenging and sometimes need someone to help them figure things out, or just be a shoulder to lean on.
“If a student has had someone in their family go off to college before, that pathway is kind of forged,” said Dollars for Scholars Executive Director Christa Funk. “But if you’re the first in your family to go, there’s a lot of questions out there,” she continued.
Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars follows students through their first year of post-secondary learning; whether that be at a two or four-year college or a trade school. “I didn’t know how to navigate college. I was three hours away from home,” Marketea said. Now, she is coaching Lina and others navigate their first year of college.
Click here to see WXYZ’s full story and hear more about Marketea and Lina.
Eastern Michigan University Event Recap
On Wednesday, September 29, juniors in the Next Level Scholars program visited Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan for our first in-person student event since March 2020! Students joined DRDFS staff in the auditorium to reconnect, play an icebreaker game, and hear a presentation from EMU Admissions. Students also enjoyed a campus walking tour where they explored academic buildings, dorms, and more. Athena from Mason said “The tour at EMU was really fun and enjoyable. EMU is definitely on my college list now and I hope I get in when I apply during senior year!”
Apply at Walsh College
On Tuesday, October 26, seniors in the Next Level Scholars program visited Walsh College in Troy, Michigan for a College Fair, FAFSA session, Scholarships & Alumni workshop, and more! Students had a chance to meet with admissions representatives from nearly 20 post-secondary institutions for a chance to learn more about their admissions requirements, ask questions and in some cases receive direct on-site admission! Sherry, a senior from Clintondale said, “The College Fair Session was my favorite because it allowed me to talk to representatives and gave me the opportunity to get the direction and answers I needed before applying”. Walsh College also hosted a session to inform students on their programs, financial aid, and also provided a campus tour. It was a very successful and informative day!
Oakland University Campus Visit
On Thursday, November 4, juniors in the Next Level Scholars program visited Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan for a campus tour, admissions presentation, and lunch in the dining hall. Students had the opportunity to hear from OU Admissions and they completed the Build Your Dream College activity along with taking an extensive tour of campus. The day concluded in OU’s newest dining hall—Hillcrest Hall. Braylon from Mason said, “Oakland University is a very welcoming school; I could see myself on campus.” Students enjoyed the dining hall experience and continued their conversations about the campus during lunch.
Sophomore Welcome at CMA
On Wednesday, December 8, DRDFS visited our newest partner high school—Communication & Media Arts, for an orientation and welcome to the program. DRDFS Staff, CMA advisers, and sophomores played an icebreaker game, ate pizza, discussed NLS program policies/expectations, and had a chance to get to learn more about our newest group of students. Students shared their intention or goal for the year with the Next Level Scholars program—many of them used words like “success” and “growth” for what they hope to gain from participating in the program.
More than 30 years ago, Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars (DRDFS) began helping local students at just one partner high school. We coordinated college campus visits for students at Willow Run High School because we knew how important it was for their futures. Over the decades, the organization has developed a full academic support program and has expanded into communities across the Southeast Michigan region.
I’m proud to announce that this fall, DRDFS gained a 14th partner high school. We welcomed Communications and Media Arts (CMA) High School of Detroit Public Schools Community District to our list of outstanding partners. This year’s new cohort of sophomores from CMA will join nearly 400 of their peers in the Next Level Scholars (NLS) program. They will have access to additional resources and tools like Tutor.com, and will attend events like Project Runway and various campus tours. We are excited to work closely with Principal Donya Odom, school leadership, and the CMA program advisers to help students realize all their opportunities on their path to post-secondary success. The addition of CMA to our high school partner list reflects our dedication to bringing extra resources and support to as many students in the Detroit Region as possible.
Each new school year brings new opportunities for growth and learning. Here at DRDFS, we keep that in mind while working toward our mission to help local students succeed in life after high school. This organization will continue to grow and welcome new partner high schools for years to come. We look optimistically at the future of our region, as our students move from high school, to post-secondary, and into their careers.
William C. Young
Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars
Students in the Next Level Scholars (NLS) program started the school year with a new outlook. All 14 of our partner high schools are back to in-person instruction for the first full school year since 2019, and NLS has begun to return to in-person programming as well. There’s no substitute for the student experience of stepping foot on a college campus, many for the first time, and feeling a sense of belonging. Campus visits and other events are most impactful when students can tour a dorm room, meet admissions representatives, and interact with their peers. We are excited for our high school seniors to find their best fit, for our junior class to learn SAT tips from professional tutors, and for our new sophomore’s to see how many opportunities are really available to them.
NLS Program Advisers Keep Students Inspired
To ensure our students have consistent support, each of our 14 partner high schools has at least one NLS Program Adviser. Our advisers are teachers or counselors who work directly with the students in their high school every day, and help coordinate all NLS program trips and activities. Advisers play a valuable role in helping to inform and mold our programming to be most impactful to the students that they know best.
Prior to the start of each school year, we bring our advisers together to review the upcoming programming. The event is filled with mission-focused activities and sessions for advisers to provide feedback. On August 25th, advisers gathered at the University of Michigan Detroit Center for the 2021-2022 Kick Off. They were able to reconnect in-person and participate in fun team-building exercises. The day ended with advisers feeling excited to implement programming as they return to in-person events.
We are thankful to work with partner schools and advisers who remain passionate about our collective mission year after year. With the help of these meaningful kick-off gatherings ahead of each school year, advisers are more equipped to recruit, support, and inspire the NLS students at their respective schools. Collectively, our advisers function as a team dedicated to driving student success for the NLS program as a whole.
Visit our website at drdfs.org to see our full listing of partner high schools.
Students Make Exciting Return to In-Person Campus Visits
On September 29th, juniors in the NLS program visited Eastern Michigan University (EMU) for our first in-person student event since March 2020!
To start the day, students reconnected with one another, played an icebreaker game, and heard a presentation from EMU Admissions. Afterwards, students split into groups and were guided on a campus walking tour. On the tour, students explored academic buildings and dorms, all while learning about student life on campus, sports, clubs, dining, and more. They were able to ask questions and talk with their tour guides, who were current EMU students, for a first-hand account of what it’s really like to attend EMU.
Students and advisers headed back to school with new information to consider when making decisions on their futures.
Reflecting on the tour, one student said “I really am grateful that we get to do these kind of field trips. It really helps us explore what is out there.” Another shared that they were drawn to the “welcoming nature, opportunities, and clubs on campus.” She added, “I could picture myself attending [EMU], doing work, and living my college life here!”
The fall semester is a refreshing reset to the possibilities that lie ahead this school year. The Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars (DRDFS) community is excited to reconnect in-person and collaborate to inspire and prepare students to succeed.