Through the generous support of Hazel Parkers and others from surrounding communities, this year's Race to College fundraising dinner was the most successful yet. Attendees enjoyed a delicious meal from award-winning chef, James Rigato of Hazel Park's own Mabel Gray Kitchen, and entertainment from Hazel Park High School's talented band, choir, and theater students.
As always, a highlight of the evening was the testimonial panel of Hazel Park students and alumni. Thank you to Imani Daniels (HPHS '13 and Central Michigan University '17) and Andrew McClellan (HPHS '13 and Michigan State University '17) for sharing their experiences with the Promise Zone's college advising and scholarship programs. Thank you also to Dhalia Blackwell, Brooke Cox, and Thomas Emmons, for sharing their experiences with our School-to-Work Program with UAW Chrysler!
Thank you again to all who attended or showed support in other ways. We look forward to seeing you at next year's event!
(l-r) HP Alternative High School senior Thomas Emmons, Promise Zone Executive Director Kayla Roney Smith, HPHS graduate Imani Daniels, HPHS graduate Andrew McClellan, HP Alternative High School senior Dhalia Blackwell, HP Alternative High School senior Brooke Cox, and HPHS alumus/Promise Zone board member/Master of Ceremonies Leon LaBrecque
The Honorable Gene Schnelz served as founding board chair of the Hazel Park Promise Zone Authority from 2010-2012, leading the early years of the organization's development and assisting in the raising of funds to get the scholarship program up and running. He graduated from Hazel Park High School in 1951 and went on to attend Alma College and the Detroit College of Law. Prior to his work with the Promise Zone in his retirement from law, he served as chief judge of the 52nd District Court for four years and as an Oakland County Circuit Court judge for nearly 29 years. An adjunct professor for Madonna University for 25 years, he also taught and lectured for the Michigan Judicial Institute, ICLE, the National Judicial College, and the Wayne State and Michigan State law schools. Judge Schnelz received the highest awards from both the State Bar and the Oakland County Bar Association and in 1990 was named by "Michigan Lawyers Weekly" as one of the most respected judges in the state.
Dr. Taylor Cox served as a founding board member and Treasurer of the Hazel Park Promise Zone Authority from 2010 until his retirement from the board in late 2017. His contributions included managing the financials of the organization, leading the development and evaluation of a Student Readiness and Success plan, and conducting student focus groups to assist in continuous improvement, among countless others. During a twenty year career as an academic, Taylor served as a faculty member and administrator at several universities including Duke University, the University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan, and he has consulted with dozens of organizations on the challenges and opportunities of a culturally diverse work force. While Taylor recently retired from his role as Senior Pastor of Living the Word Christian Ministries, he remains heavily involved in ministry, including currently working with a coalition of metro Detroit pastors focused on improving race relations in the region.
The Promise Zone is thrilled to have secured a partnership with the Wayne State University Talent Search Program. In addition to supplemental college advising, tutoring, and other college preparatory resources, Talent Search has committed to funding SAT preparation courses for Hazel Park High School students. While these courses typically cost hundreds of dollars per person, this partnership enables the course to be provided free of charge to our students. The refresher course for 12th grade students is already in progress, but juniors can register for the winter course by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are excited to share that 13 Hazel Park High School and Hazel Park Alternative High School juniors recently completed year one of the UAW Chrysler School-to-Work Program, a unique skilled trades training opportunity currently available only to Hazel Park students through a partnership between UAW Chrysler, the Hazel Park Promise Zone, and Hazel Park Schools.
These 13 students will enter their final year of the two-year program in the fall. They will be joined by 20 rising 11th-grade students who were recently selected to enter the program through a competitive application and interview process.
Students who participate in this program receive training in core manufacturing trades, including electrician and millwright work, tool and die, and pipe fitting. They also receive hands-on, experienced-based instruction in communications, public speaking, problem-solving, and other key workplace skills.
HPHS seniors were honored at this year's "Decision Day" event for making the decision to formally continue their education in some way after high school.
We are excited to announce that this year's HPHS graduating seniors were offered more than $2.6 million in scholarship dollars for college. This is up from a previous high of $1.5 million and up from $600,000 prior to the implementation of the Promise Zone college advising program. More than $800,000 of this scholarship funding was offered to students for their first year of college!
CONGRATULATIONS, SENIORS! We are so proud of you!
Sarah Thompson presents research for her thesis at the GVSU Student Scholars Day earlier this year.
Hazel Park High School Class of 2012
Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, University of Michigan Class of 2016
Master of Science in Cell and Molecular Biology, Grand Valley State University, Anticipated 2018
How has the Promise Zone helped you achieve your goals?
The Promise Zone helped me when I was an undergraduate at Michigan. My personal financial experience included not having enough financial aid to cover the cost of tuition, and with the aid of Promise Zone, I was able to work out the financial expenses so that I could stay continuously enrolled. Being able to stay continuously enrolled kept me motivated to stay in school and helped prevent having a break in my studies, something that I believe is really important when it comes to school.
What do you envision yourself doing short term and long term?
Short term, I see myself finishing my Master’s program and applying to Neuroscience PhD programs across the country. Long term, I see myself finishing my PhD, and if necessary coming back to Michigan to do my Post-Doc, and then working in the Biotech Industry and starting a family.
I am excited to share this semester I was awarded the Presidential Grant through GVSU which includes a $1500 + $500 travel allowance. I will be presenting my research at the University of Michigan for the Michigan Society for Neuroscience Chapter meeting and in Washington D.C. for the National Society for Neuroscience Conference.
What made you decide upon this path?
When I was in high school I took AP chemistry with Ms. (Amy) Zitzelberger. Her passion for chemistry and the way she taught it made it so interesting, and I fell in love with it. I decided that I needed to study some field of chemistry, and I ended up with Biochemistry. Moving on to my Master’s I decided to focus on a slightly more macro scale, doing cell and molecular biology.
I've learned that I really enjoy research. I love testing new ideas, and being able to ask new questions is something important to me when it comes to what I do later on in life.
Why should someone give to the Promise Zone?
Everyone deserves the chance to pursue their dreams. You can’t control the socioeconomic status you are born into, but you can choose to do something about it. Choosing something to do about it isn’t always enough though, because in order to climb from the bottom to the top you need a ladder. The Promise Zone is that ladder.
What have you been involved with as a student?
Recently I have volunteered with AWiS (Association for Women in Science) at their Fall in Love with STEM event aimed at middle schoolers and at the MSU Brain Awareness Week Neuroscience Fair. As well, I recently participated in the 3-Minute Thesis competition at GVSU and took 2nd place.
Previously, my participation in the Michigan Marching Band and Hockey Band allowed me to travel for performances. With the Hockey Band, I performed at Soldier Field in Chicago and at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Through Marching Band, I was able to perform in East Lansing, South Bend, Columbus, and at the 2016 Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
What do you remember most vividly about your time at Hazel Park High School?
I remember the teachers who made a lasting impact on my life. Mrs. Gafa, Ms. Ericson, Ms. Z, Mr. Pogue, Mr. Ford, Mr. Elstone, and so many others. I learned many important life lessons and grew into the person I am today because of their guidance and support.
I think the most lasting impression is a lesson that Mr. Elstone taught me, and that was to “seek first to understand before being understood.” Whenever I am faced with conflict in my life, this has helped to guide me through.
What advice would you give to current Hazel Park students?
No matter what, you should do something after graduation. Go to college, go to tech school, learn a trade, serve in the armed forces, join the peace corps, just do SOMETHING. High school is the bare minimum, and you are all capable of more and owe it to yourselves to be all that you can be. If you are going to college I want you to know that it is hard. Learning how to manage your time is the best skill you can acquire to get you through school. Do not let your first failed exam or bad semester discourage you. Keep going, buckle down, work harder, and show those classes who is the boss. The reward will be worth it in the end, I promise.
CONGRATULATIONS TO HAZEL PARK HIGH SCHOOL FOR BEING NAMED THE 2017 CARDINAL AWARD WINNER BY THE MICHIGAN COLLEGE ACCESS NETWORK!
HPHS Counselor Whitney Bernstein, College Adviser Moussa Traore, and Promise Zone Executive Director Kayla Roney Smith attended the Michigan College Access Network's Annual Conference in Lansing on March 13th-14th and accepted the Cardinal Award on behalf of HPHS at its College Access Impact Awards Dinner. The Cardinal Award honors organizations which successfully develop and promote campaigns to urge students, parents, school staff and citizens to create a sense of urgency around the post secondary planning process. According to MCAN, boosting the college access activity in communities on the ground level helps drive the state toward the Big Goal of 60 percent college attainment by 2025.
The Hazel Park Promise Zone team was thrilled to host more than 150 guests at our fourth annual dinner.
The guests of honor included four Hazel Park High School alumni: Michigan State University student Braxton Buckner, University of Michigan student LaKaylia Kea, Schoolcraft College alumnus and soon-to-be Oakland University student Nick Lemere, and Western Michigan University student Ashley Watkins. The students spoke on stage with Promise Zone board member Leon LaBrecque and shared ways in which the Promise Zone assisted them on their paths: through scholarship awards, extensive college advising, and other programming.
The Promise Zone's annual Promise Zone Service Award was dedicated to Chairman William C. "Bill" Hitchcock, a lifelong Hazel Park businessman and community volunteer. Community activist and former mayor Jan Parisi, who has contributed in countless ways to the betterment of the community, was honored as the first award recipient. She was also awarded a special honor by Peggy Burleson of the Hazel Park Lions Club.
Mr. Moussa Traore joined the Promise Zone team in 2016 as the HPHS college adviser.
"I believe that through education we can close the gap between different generations and celebrate prosperity together. I have a deep hope of never seeing a child lacking post-secondary educational opportunities in a world where social justice for less educated individuals tends to pose problems. Therefore, I want students to pursue education and to be the champions of change as 21th-century leaders."
As the Hazel Park High School college adviser, Mr. Traore's job is to work to ensure that every graduating HPHS student has a post-secondary plan for achieving their educational and career goals.
"My role is to advise students by giving them the right information concerning colleges," says Mr. Traore. "I am responsible for telling them what they need to know and giving them important information as to how they can reach their dream schools. I also assist them through scholarship searches, filing their college applications, submitting their FAFSA (Free Applications for Federal Student Aid), etc.
Mr. Traore says that he is working to illustrate the benefits of post-secondary education and establish a strong college-going culture, noting research showing that between 60-70 percent of jobs in Michigan and throughout the country will require a post-secondary credential by 2025. 'Post-secondary credential' refers to two- and four-year degrees, as well as certain certifications.
"I want every student to have a plan when they leave high school. I would like to see more seniors planning to enroll in four-year institutions. I want every student to believe and understand that they can be college bound. I want them to see and understand that college can be for them. I want them to understand that college can be accessible, affordable, and possible. I want them to understand that college can change their lives. "