Next Level Scholars Fall Recap

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.

Letter from the President: Fall 2021


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, 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 Return to In-Person Programming

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 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.

Spotlight on Communications and Media Arts High School

NLS Program Manager, Marissa D’Angelo, poses with Ms. Hudson-Johnson, one of two new NLS Program Advisers at CMA.

This school year, Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars (DRDFS) welcomed Communications and Media Arts High School (CMA) as our 14th partner high school. CMA is a college prep school located in Northwest Detroit. The school, with approximately 370 students, is one of seven Magnet High Schools in the Detroit Public School Community District (DPSCD). CMA is the first DPSCD School to partner with DRDFS.

CMA Principal Donya Odom talks with guests at DRDFS event in September.

CMA Principal Donya Odom noted that 51% of CMA students go on to enroll in a post-secondary institution within six months of high school graduation, and that most of these graduates enroll in a 4-year college. Odom also addressed how DRDFS programs will fit with and enhance the educational objectives of CMA students. Principal Odom said “I’m super excited to be partnering with Dollars for Scholars to help our students better understand the relevance of obtaining a college education, visiting colleges, and seeing themselves attending one of these institutions of higher learning.”

Commitment to College Readiness

CMA offers a tailored Communications and Media Arts curriculum along with various AP courses. Students have the opportunity to explore different career pathways under that umbrella, such as digital media arts, speech, journalism, mass communications, and photography. In partnership with Wayne County Community College, CMA offers its students a dual enrollment program. Beginning in the 10th grade, CMA students can choose career-track courses such as writing for radio and TV, broadcasting, and other communications-focused credits. It is possible for dually-enrolled students to earn an associate’s degree by the time they graduate from high school. Tuition for this program is paid for by the Detroit Promise Fund.

Odom is focused on her students and her hope for their success, stating “as these students matriculate through their senior year they will better understand that college is a great option for them to obtain the education and skills needed to be successful in the global economy. DRDFS supports our students and helps them to understand that connection, and to see themselves having the opportunity to be successful.”

Regarding the bigger picture of DRDFS’s role within DPSCD, Odom shared that she views CMA as pioneers for further partnership within DPSCD. “We want to model what I hope becomes the norm for relationships with a philanthropic organization that is committed to supporting our most vulnerable and marginalized students.”

Next Level Scholars Program Director, Jill Marecki, recruits CMA sophomores.

Interim Scholarships

With the addition of each new partner high school, DRDFS offers interim scholarships for the first two years of partnership, until the students who began as sophomores complete the full program in their senior year. DRDFS is excited for two Class of 2022 seniors at CMA to each be awarded a $2,000 scholarship to support their post-secondary goals. The scholarships that are available to these students are the Betty Ritzenhein Memorial Scholarship and the Pamela Sidney Leadership Scholarship.


DRDFS is proud of our new partnership with CMA. We look forward to partnering with additional DPSCD high schools in the future as we grow towards our goal of 25 high school partners in Southeastern Michigan.

9th Annual Celebration Luncheon

Join Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars for our 9th Annual Celebration Luncheon on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 from 11:00 AM until 1:30 PM.


March 16, 2022
Registration & Networking | 11:00 AM
Program & Lunch | 11:30 AM – 12:45 PM


University of Detroit Mercy
4001 W McNichols Rd.
Detroit, MI 48221


Individual tickets can be purchased online via Eventbrite.

Click here to purchase tickets!

For sponsorship opportunities or questions about the event, contact Christa Funk at or by calling 734-455-2849.

Proceeds from this event will help provide students with the holistic support, unique experiences, knowledge, scholarships, and other resources they need to excel at their next level of education.

2021 Downtown Networking Tailgate

On Wednesday, September 15th, Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars (DRDFS) supporters and alumni gathered in Detroit’s Campus Martius Park for the Downtown Networking Tailgate. Many guests were learning about DRDFS for the first time, and heard from the program experts, DRDFS alumni!

Watch Event Highlights on YouTube!

Seven program alumni, all at different schools and various stages of their post-secondary journeys, were the focal point of the event. During the evening, guests made their way around to each alumni station, listening to a different alumni story. Through these stories, guests learned about the impact the DRDFS program has on its students.

Elijah D., who is a sophomore at Michigan State University, credits Dollars for Scholars with helping him break out of his comfort zone to connect with others.

Frank M., knew that Eastern Michigan University was the right fit for him when he got to visit the campus with the program, joining almost 30 other Dollars for Scholars program alumni on campus.

Esmerelda O. felt that the college fair Dollars for Scholars hosted really helped her to get all her questions answered and make the right choice to attend University of Michigan.

The program for the evening kicked off with a performance by America’s Got Talent finalists, the Detroit Youth Choir. Later in the evening one of the alumni, Maureen T., addressed the crowd. She shared her DRDFS story beginning when she was a sophomore in high school learning about the program, to present day as she plans to graduate from Oakland University this spring.

“When I first joined [DRDFS], the appeal for me was to be able to go on campus tours that I otherwise would have missed out on. I was also very involved with various extracurriculars so having this program built into my class schedule during the week really helped make my college search and application process very easy!” Maureen went on to share what DRDFS trips and events had the greatest impact on her, mentioning that the various campus visits stood out the most. “Later on in the program, and many campus tours later, Dollars for Scholars helped me choose Oakland University. With the assistance of the Dollars for Scholars scholarship, I was able to fully fund my freshman year at OU!”

Executive Director, Christa Funk, closed the program that evening by thanking guests, alumni, and the many event sponsors, including Gold Sponsors BDO, Crain Communications, Fifth Third Bank, Key Bank, Bill and Vivienne Young, and PwC. The DRDFS network of supporters helped make the Downtown Networking Tailgate an unforgettable experience of meeting new friends, learning about our alumni, and ensuring future students will receive the support and resources they need to succeed.


Class of 2021 Perfect Attendance

Congratulations to the 59 members of the Class of 2021 who achieved perfect attendance throughout the three-year Next Level Scholars program!

The Next Level Scholars (NLS) Class of 2021 is the largest in the history of the organization with 114 graduates. Students participate in the academic support program from sophomore year until high school graduation. Throughout that time, they attend multiple events each school year, including campus visits, SAT test prep, etiquette and networking training, the annual Celebration Luncheon, and more.

In order to achieve perfect attendance throughout all three years, students must make a commitment to the program and to their own success in life after high school. More than half of the students in this graduating class attended every single NLS event. All 59 of them have remained highly engaged, maximizing resources and opportunities provided to them in the NLS program.


The following students received special recognition during the recent Suited for Success celebration at the end of the school year. Congratulations on achieving perfect attendance in the NLS program!


Kurk E., Berkley High School
Lindsay P., Berkley High School
Eve P., Berkley High School
Lauren R., Berkley High School
Habiba I., Center Line High School
Michelle S., Center Line High School
Persia C., Clintondale High School
Hannah G., Clintondale High School
Aleezia L., Clintondale High School
Ethan S., Clintondale High School
Olivia T., Clintondale High School
Fidel M., Detroit Cristo Rey High School
Dyanna O., Detroit Cristo Rey High School
Alondra R., Detroit Cristo Rey High School
Araden D., Henry Ford II High School
Violetta D., Henry Ford II High School
Diana G., Henry Ford II High School
Trezeta H., Henry Ford II High School
Englantina L., Henry Ford II High School
Staci S., Henry Ford II High School
Abigayle B., Ida High School
Landon B., Ida High School
Drake H., Ida High School
Makayla J., Ida High School
Griffin L., Ida High School
Lillian M., Ida High School
Ava M., Ida High School
Alexis H., Lincoln High School
Aniya H., Lincoln High School
Tayler M., Lincoln High School
Paris S., Lincoln High School
Taliyah W., Lincoln High School
Delilah C., Madison High School
Ariana A., Mason High School
Mariah C., Mason High School
Colin C., Mason High School
Anne C., Mason High School
Drew F., Mason High School
Madison J., Mason High School
Skyler V., Mason High School
Jarah A., Melvindale High School
Jehan A., Melvindale High School
Jessica C., Melvindale High School
Lina K., Melvindale High School
Darcel D., Romulus High School
Colae E., Romulus High School
Laila L., Romulus High School
Brenden T., Romulus High School
Caitlin W., Romulus High School
Mareo B., Stevenson High School
Mohamed-ollie C., Stevenson High School
Nicholas D., Stevenson High School
Alex D., Stevenson High School
Christopher G., Stevenson High School
Samira G., Stevenson High School
Shelby H., Stevenson High School
Emily T., Stevenson High School
Alyssa W., Stevenson High School
Shanese S., Ypsilanti Community High School

Suited for Success: Class of 2021

The DRDFS Class of 2021 Announces College Decisions

Each school year, before high school graduation, Seniors in the Next Level Scholars (NLS) program celebrate their college decisions at an event called Suited for Success. This year, the event took place virtually, with the members of the Class of 2021 joining via Zoom to announce where they are headed to continue their education in the fall.

Prior to the event, Suited for Success celebration boxes were mailed to students’ homes. Inside the box, they received a t-shirt with the logo of their chosen post-secondary institution, a graduation stole, a gift card for enjoying a celebratory pizza, and more.

The celebration started with an Alumni Panel. Three alumni of the NLS program, who currently attend three different post-secondary institutions, had a conversation about their experiences and offered helpful advice to the soon-to-be high school graduates. Elijah D., a freshman at Michigan State University shared his perspective on signing up for his own classes for the first time, and how to prepare for differences in instruction styles between professors. Camryn A., a senior at Grand Valley State University, had insight about on-campus employment, how to best communicate with admissions professionals, and how to build report with professors. The third Alumni on the panel was Marketea A., a junior at Hope College, who students are already familiar with because of her role as NLS Post-Secondary Transition Coach. Marketea was able to provide tips on everything from purchasing textbooks, to resources available to specifically support first-generation college students. The alumni had a great conversation about their real-life experiences that the Class of 2021 will be able to consider as they transition to their next level of education this fall.

Students enjoyed the Alumni Panel and were able to learn a lot from the three panelists. The most impactful highlight of the event, however, was the college decision announcements. One by one, the members of the Class of 2021 took their opportunity on Zoom to enthusiastically announce their post-secondary decisions. The seniors celebrated and clapped for one another, and the NLS Program Advisers shared words of congratulations and support. More than 35 post-secondary institutions were announced in the process. These students will go on to pursue their dreams at schools all across the state and country.

Throughout the three-year NLS program, many students made it a top priority to achieve perfect attendance to all program events. These students were recognized during Suited for Success for their commitment and achievement. The NLS Program Advisers received recognition as well for their dedication to students. From the longest-serving Adviser of nine years, to the newest Advisers to join this school year, they each have a positive impact on the lives of students.

To close the event, Makayla J., from Ida High School, left her fellow seniors with her owninspiring message, telling classmates “My time with Dollars for Scholars has been unforgettable. I’ve learned so much, especially about post-secondary. I’ve also felt so celebrated and encouraged. I feel so joyous and grateful to be with you all today (virtually), celebrating our accomplishments.” Makayla ended with a favorite quote of hers, saying “Today is a milestone. It tells you how far you’ve come. So keep learning, keep trying, keep accomplishing, and keep venturing on through your journey.”

This spring, the Class of 2021 will graduate high school and become part of the NLS Alumni Network. They will be able to rely on this network for guidance, resources, and connecting with new friends. With the help and encouragement of their peers, they will be more prepared to persist through post-secondary to earn their dream degree. Whether they attend a community college, trade school, or four-year university, Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars will be there to offer support along the way.

DRDFS Students Succeed with


This school year, students had to adjust to a new learning environment. With many students in the Next Level Scholars (NLS) program learning from home this year, and some students following a hybrid or an in-person model, we knew we needed to continue providing stable, consistent support no matter the circumstances. We were proud to have provided the services of to our students. allows students to chat with professional tutors on-demand at any time of the day or night, as often as they need to, and for any subject they’re studying. This personalized instruction helps ensure that our students have extra support available to them while working hard to succeed in their classes. Thanks in part to a grant from Eagles for Children, Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars (DRDFS) was able to provide this service at no cost to our students.

Pictured below is Annie, a Next Level Scholar from Ida High School. The screen image shows Annie completing a tutoring session for a math problem she needed help with. In order to work through questions together, students and tutors are able to utilize an interactive white board, along with a chat box. Annie has used multiple times and is very thankful for the support, telling DRDFS “I have been choosing the option without the video and just typing over computer with a tutor while we work out problems on the whiteboard. All of the tutors I worked with have been very encouraging, patient and friendly. They know how to explain (Algebra) problems in different ways. Every tutor is different, and every one of them has helped me, and made me understand more than I did before. I’m very happy Dollars for Scholars has enrolled us in this program because has really helped me a lot!”


Another student, Omimah from Melvindale HS, reflected on using, saying, “ has been such a helpful resource. It has been helping me get my homework done. You can choose from a voice chat or typing chat. While you are getting help from tutor you can ask as many questions as you want and they will try to answer them in the best way! I’m glad that Dollars for Scholars offers this help to us.”

With the help of a weekly student newsletter, students receive reminders that the service is available for them to log on and begin a tutoring session any time. In a recent survey, we also asked students to reflect on a subject they need help with. That information has informed more targeted messages to students, such as “Still struggling with Algebra? Log in to to reach your GPA goal this semester!” These strategies, along with 1:1 and small group calls to log in to the service are impactful reminders to students that this additional support is there.


Interested in learning more about how impacted students in the NLS program this school year? Click here to see what a senior student had to say in A Journey to Post-Secondary Education on YouTube.

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Welcome Class of 2023


Detroit Regional Dollars for Scholars (DRDFS) is always growing! Each school year, a new sophomore class is welcomed into the academic support program, Next Level Scholars (NLS). In December 2020, 128 members of the Class of 2023 joined a group of 364 total student participants in DRDFS who are determined to succeed in post-secondary education. The new cohort received NLS Welcome Packages by mail, which contained gifts and goodies including a welcome letter, NLS gear, a t-shirt, a program policy packet, and an invitation for the NLS Google Classroom.

Sophomore Orientation

On January 27th, this new group of sophomores attended their virtual orientation and learned what it means to be a Next Level Scholar. At orientation, students participated in a trivia challenge, asked questions, watched videos to get to know the DRDFS staff, and discussed what motivated them to apply to the program. One student from Stevenson High School said, “I applied to Next Level Scholars because I wanted to learn more about other colleges and I know that NLS will help me do that! I’m excited to go on college trips and learn how to prepare for the future.”

Project Runway

Sophomores will celebrate the start of their post-secondary journeys at Project Runway on May 25th. This event is considered a “crash course” on everything students need to know in order to prepare for their next level of education. The event will feature a spotlight on a post-secondary institution, opportunities to hear from program alumni, a financial literacy session, and expert advice from professional Etiquette Coach Jacqueline Baker.

Sophomore students will walk away from the virtual event equipped with knowledge of opportunities they may not have known were available to them, and the steps they need to take to achieve their post-secondary goals.

Who makes up the Class of 2023?

The NLS Class of 2023 comes from 13 high schools across five counties in Southeast Michigan. These partner schools are located throughout Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. The various high school communities range from urban, to suburban, to rural, making for a diverse group of students from all different backgrounds. Collectively, this sophomore class speaks 10 different languages! This diversity contributes to meaningful sharing of ideas, perspectives, and experiences, all while student participants have an important dedication in common; to succeed in life after high school. Many of these students will be the first generation in their families to go on to attend post-secondary education. In fact, 77% of the Class of 2023 will be first-generation college students.

What’s next?

This new cohort will complete their first year as Next Level Scholars feeling inspired by the new experiences and information they will be able apply when making important decisions about their futures. In the fall, they will return as Juniors, and will be eager to continue their work toward post-secondary goals. DRDFS is ready to break down barriers to success and support the Class of 2023 along their journey.

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