By Carolyn Marnon – The library was full of activity on a recent Tuesday morning as about 25 former Champions of Wayne students came back to their alma mater to discuss what their college experience has been like with students who are currently trying to navigate the next phase in their educational careers.
These former students included a Gates Scholar, a Georgetown attendee, one who said “The lowest grade I got was an A-”, one that was juggling sports and academics, one that was the first in her family to go to college, a bioengineering student at Stanford, one studying ancient languages and culture studies, one raising money for the children of St. Jude’s in her Honors Program, one learning Arabic, one who had been in foster care, a few former Upward Bound students, a male cheerleader and a first generation college student who was receiving a full-ride scholarship. They were all there to answer questions and share what they had learned so far.
After an introductory period where the former students introduced themselves, what year they graduated, where they were attending (or had attended) and what they had studied, they broke into smaller groups for more personal discussions.
Renaldo Powell graduated in 2009. He had been a Champion of Wayne and a member of Upward Bound. He said Upward Bound really helped him prepare for college and what it would be like. It gave him the opportunity to visit all the Michigan colleges, some in Toledo and even William and Mary College. Renaldo attended Central Michigan and pursued a business degree. His interest was in entrepreneurship and he tried starting three different businesses while he was there to get real world experience. Central Michigan has new venture programs that give up to $30,000 to students to start a business. Renaldo entered every year. One year he won $1000 to incorporate a business; that particular business was a website he created that would connect aspiring entrepreneurs with those who had the resources to help them. Of the three businesses he started while at CM, Renaldo’s success story became Powell’s Pedicabs. He operated a bike taxi service around campus where he would pick up students from bars or parties and get them home safely. He made the whole experience fun for his customers by lighting up the pedicab and having music playing. He engaged with his customers throughout the ride. The best part of his business venture was that he worked whenever he wanted to.
Collin Hudson graduated in 2015 and is now a sophomore at Michigan State. He is studying neuroscience with a focus on cognition. He enjoys learning about brain activity and how humans think. He’s the first generation in his family to attend college. While he was at WMHS, he was part of Champions of Wayne, Upward Bound, on the tennis team and wrestled. As a Champion who already received good grades, he had to set extra goals for himself such as studying more and writing about his various experiences. He is currently trying to obtain a research opportunity in neuroscience and belongs to the tennis club. He says tennis helps him to relieve the stress he experiences on campus. Collin likes crunching numbers, so he is planning to get a minor in statistics.
Kelsie Wysong graduated in 2016 and headed off to Stanford. She was asked how she focuses on college when she is so far away from her family and friends. “You make friends fast,” she answered. “You just make friends.” She also stays connected with her family by calling her parents and siblings often and Facetiming (a phone application that allows callers to see each other on their phones while they chat). Kelsie was asked if she would attend Stanford for grad school when the time came. She wasn’t sure that she would. From what she has heard and experienced, the undergraduate program at Stanford is great, but she hasn’t heard much that is positive about the graduate program. “I don’t want to be a doctor. I just want to play with DNA,” she says. She loves Stanford because people there believe in her dreams. They all have realistic dreams and then they have their crazy dreams. Kelsie’s realistic dream is to work with and research extinct animals. Her crazy dream is a real world Jurassic Park. Besides studying, Kelsie takes a Stanford tap class 3 times a week and does research with a graduate student. She says she was rejected from Student Senate. Maybe the dinosaurs need her more!
Carmen Mata attends Georgetown University in Washington DC. She was asked if it was hard for her to move so far from home. She replied that she had already done programs while in high school at Green Bay and Princeton, so she was prepared for the move. The most difficult part of moving was determining what she was going to need to bring. She had to know what the weather patterns were in DC so she could plan what clothing she’d need. She had to figure out what she had space for in her dorm room. Figuring out what to bring was not easy. She was asked if it was hard to make friends. Since she had done a summer program at Georgetown, she already had a small base of friends and she was able to make new friends. She did give two great pieces of advice: “You’re in a bubble. But the people are generally decent,” and “You can’t rely on your parents. You have to do it for you.”
Soon it was time to break for lunch. Teacher Kevin English told the students assembled to “Embrace this opportunity” to eat lunch and talk to each other.
This gave me the opportunity to speak to a few students directly rather than just listening in on their conversations.
Dimitrus Renfroe will be graduating on May 6, 2017 from Michigan State University. While Dimitrus what growing up, his mom was always a working mom. His dad has been to prison nine times. In high school, he had a friend who was shorter than him (Dimitrus is tall) who challenged him to a wrestling match and if he could beat Dimitrus, Dimitrus would join the wrestling team. Dimitrus already played football and had figured if he went to college, he would go to some small college in the south to play. As it turned out, Dimitrus lost the match with his friend and joined the wrestling team. He did well at wrestling. It turned out if he wanted to go to college, he would have to enroll in online classes while in high school so he could increase his GPA. He wrestled at MSU; however, he is not wrestling this year as he prepares for graduation. He is studying Criminal Justice as it relates to juvenile delinquents.
Marcel Trinity says when he attended WMHS, the school was considered an underdog. Nothing was expected of the students but the bare minimum. He graduated in 2012 and went on to the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He is currently working on a double major in accounting and finance. “You know what you’re capable of-your self-worth. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.” He used the Champions of Wayne program to meet his goals while using the positive reinforcement of the $200 financial incentive as a tool to help him succeed. He currently works for Frito-Lay. He says Frito-Lay is a $96 billion business. His curiosity and analytical mind are always thinking “Where does all that money go?” In the future, he wants to be someone who knows all those little details that make up the big picture.