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. "
Jared Gajos Photo By: Choua Photography
Jared Gajos, HPHS Class of 2013
What year did you graduate from high school? What year do you plan to graduate from college?
I graduated from high school in June of 2013 and plan to graduate college in May of 2017.
Where are you attending school currently?
I am currently attending school at Michigan State University (Go Green!).
What is your major? What is your minor? How did you become interested in your major?
My major is International Relations. It is sort of a global scale version of politics that focuses in on issues regarding peace, war, and nation’s relations. My minors are French and International Peace and Justice. What got me interested in my major was Mrs. Smith’s recommendation to apply into the James Madison program for political degrees during my senior year because she felt at the time my leadership abilities and such were super applicable to the residential college criteria.
What influenced your choice of this major?
After doing the first year of James Madison, I settled on IR because I could utilize my French minor along with it and I loved learning the history behind every nation.
Have you traveled abroad? If so, where? What have you learned in your travels?
I have traveled abroad twice. The first time was in high school with my French mates to England and France for about two weeks. The second time was in an MSU study abroad program where I lived in a French host family household in Tours, France for two and a quarter months. I learned that there is way more outside of the boundaries that are set for you growing up. It takes some guts to venture out and try new things, like living in a foreign nation, but once you do, your whole view of the world is completely different. You thirst for more knowledge; more adventure; more memories and you actively begin to envision your life as a journey to do so.
What have you learned about yourself as a college student?
Being a student in college taught me that everyone comes from a different background. Some students are extremely well-off, others are extremely intelligent, but at the end of the day, you all made it into the same college; the same program so none of that matters. It took some getting use to not getting 4.0’s in every course like I basically did throughout high school. That was a rough wake-up call that made me feel like I was doing college completely wrong. But as time goes on and your understanding of college advances, you begin to see which professors are there for you 24/7, which tutoring programs are the best, and which parts of the library are the quietest to study in. College is a different experience for everyone, so just because a method of improvement doesn’t work for your friends, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.
Most valuable life lesson thus far you have learned in your studies?
The most valuable life lesson I have learned in my studies is if you do not understand the subject matter: go to office hours, send an email, write a letter... SOMETHING, because 99% of the time every professor is always willing to take that extra time to make sure you are on the same page with everyone else. (P.S. don’t wait until the last minute to study for something, it never works out)
What do you envision yourself doing short term and long term?
Short term: Graduating college, taking a leap towards getting into the political circles, going to graduate school for public affairs or public administration, and then heading into law school.
Long term: Becoming a State Rep or Governor, moving into a Secretary of --- position and hopefully one day, becoming President and then retiring as a UN Ambassador.
How has the Promise Zone helped you achieve your goals?
The Promise Zone provided me with Mrs. Smith who steered me towards James Madison, one of the best Residential Colleges in the state. The Promise Zone also provided me with access to speaking to others about my adventures through college as well as on-site admissions in high school. Without the PZ, I would probably have changed my major another dozen times and wound up in a degree program that was not the best fit for me.
What do you do for fun, when you’re not working, or studying?
Normally I cook. I do a “Cooking with Jared” series from time to time on my Snapchat, where I teach my followers about the food that I am cooking as well as adding in the countless mishaps that come with cooking food on a college student’s budget. If I’m not cooking, I’m usually watching Netflix (of course, right) or going out with friends at all hours of the night.
What are you involved with at your current school?
The first couple of years, I was involved in ASMSU, a program that is sort of like Student Council for college students. Mostly now, I spend my time as the President of the Paranormal Society (aka the best club on campus), going to the French Club coffee talks, or acting on stage in plays produced by Roial Players.
What do you remember most vividly about your time at Hazel Park High School?
I remember being involved in basically everything offered at the high school and not understanding how I balanced it all at the end of the day. But mostly I remember my time in the Drama Club, where I was an E-board member for three of my four years in the club. It allowed me to significantly improve upon my social personality and taught me a lot about how the arts are extremely important to every student.
What is the lasting impression that Hazel Park Schools has had on you?
Hazel Park Schools left me with the impression that no matter where you ventured in life; whether it be a couple cities over or Hong Kong, you always had a community of teachers, administrators, and others to turn to for advice and support. HP Schools taught me that no matter your background, you can succeed in anything you put your mind to as long as you are determined to reach that goal.
Do you have anything to add that you may want anyone reading this to know?
I didn’t think I could have afforded college coming from a single-family based background, but there are a tremendous amount of scholarships, grants, and awards that are available to every person entering college that can significantly reduce the amount in loans you’ll owe six months after graduating. Don’t let a financial dilemma hold you back from pursuing your dreams of one day becoming a doctor, actor, or lawyer. There is so much out there that you haven’t yet discovered that can aid you in your quest for knowledge. It just takes time and patient to obtain it.
What advice would you give to current Hazel Park students?
Actively work toward getting better grades as well as participating in extracurriculars while you still have the time. This gives you such a better shot of receiving copious amounts of scholarships and grants from a variety of colleges. If you are unsure of what you want to do in life, talk to your teachers and community leaders. They can definitely steer you onto paths that can help you narrow down possible degree choices.
Why should someone support the Promise Zone?
The Promise Zone doesn't just give students access to on-site admissions or trips to the various colleges around Michigan. The Promise Zone provides students with a shot at a bright future; a future that can be proud of because they worked diligently for it. The Promise Zone is giving students a chance to pursue dreams that they never thought possible and providing a network for students to interact with as they journey throughout their college lives.