Brianna Morrow

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For as long as I can remember I have had a soccer ball at my feet, a baseball bat in my hand, volleyball within reach, and a t-shirt and athletic shorts on. Playing sports was the one place I felt one hundred percent sure of myself. It was the source of my confidence and gave me a place to belong. It is what I am good at, and it is what I love. 

Three years ago, my spirit was tested. Pain overcame my body as my knee twisted in ways I knew it shouldn’t. I crumpled onto the volleyball court, until I was finally carried off. 

“Looks like the ACL”
I am not injured. 
“It’s torn.” 
I can’t be injured. 
“You will need surgery.”
I don’t get injured.

The diagnosis was a torn ACL. I saw this injury as failure. It put me six months behind my competition, a concept that I despised. 

I went to physical therapy three times a week for eight months; two months prior to surgery and six months post surgery. I worked harder than I ever had before, trying to get back to doing what I love. However, my recovery process was as much mental as it was physical. Getting my mind in a positive place was the key in my successful recovery. My injury tested my level of perseverance and determination. I recovered stronger and more resilient than before. 

I owe my success in athletics, academics and many other aspects of my life to my unfortunate injury. With my strong will I prevailed and I now incorporate this fight into almost every aspect of my life. It is what motivates me to do my best in all that I do.


Tristyn Walton

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The book “A Return to Love” by Marianne Willamson is and probably will forever be one of the most meaningful and inspirational books to me. In this book Marianne says something that ultimately saved my life. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.” This quote is the most meaningful to me because growing up many would think I had it easy, a light skin girl with long pretty brown hair; but the truth is being light skin was what hurt me the most. You see the black guys made me feel like Star Jones before surgery and the white guys made me feel like Star Jones after. I was teased every day and had resolved that the only resolution was to get rid of the problem, and I was the problem. As I reached for the pills I remembered that very quote that mother shared with me and in that very moment I felt as if everything changed and the quote that my mother shared with me finally meant something. Reading “A return to Love” and my mom pointing that quote out to me literally saved my life and that I am most grateful for.


Kylah Vaunado

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My grandmother influences me to be a Good Samaritan, and a strong and loving person. She has three children, six grandchildren and works two jobs to provide for them and still finds time to support others when needed. She does not only offer financial support, she also offers mental and physical support. 

When I need help financially or with my homework my grandmother is always available. My mom cannot provide everything we want but only the things we need so sometimes we call my grandmother. One day, my grandmother paid for my ticket to a football game because my mother did not have the funds to pay for it. After the game I called my grandmother to thank her and tell her about the game. We stayed on the phone for about an hour or so laughing and talking about the game and my senior year.

Every other Wednesday my grandmother goes to Zion Hope Missionary Baptist Church and passes out free vegetables to people who are less fortunate. She also gives away clothes that are too small for my family to other families that cannot afford them. She does not get paid for any of this, yet she still does it. My grandmother is a lady who does not mind giving and I love her for that. She has taught me these valuable traits that I use daily. When I am able to give I give expecting nothing in return.


Simone Mosby

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Zoe was the most energetic little girl I had ever met, always singing and dancing, and playing around, like most six year olds nevertheless. But, what made Zoe different from the other kids her age was that she was diagnosed with liver disease from the day she was born. Within the first month of her fragile life, Zoe had to receive a liver transplant. It amazed me how much energy and personality she had despite the illness that was trying to claim her life every day. Zoe was in and out of the hospital at days and even weeks at a time but always kept a smile on her face. She never complained, never lost her amazing optimism, and always kept her head held high. But her lifelong fight became too intense and Zoe passed away October 9, 2010 at the age of seven. Her life humbled me, I would complain about a headache and might even want to stay home from school because of it, yet Zoe was jumping around and dancing with a pig liver inside of her doing the best it could to keep her alive. Now, whenever I want to complain about a minor issue, Zoe’s smile pops in my head. She has taught me that life will not be perfect and things will get tough but there is no use in crying over spilled milk. You have to stay strong, keep pushing, stay positive and give your all until there is nothing left to give. Zoe is my hero.


Nijah' McNeal

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“God doesn’t give you anymore than you can handle.” Growing up, this quote was the only thing that kept me going. As a child, my parents always told me to stay focused in school so that one day I will have the opportunity to follow my dream career. Neither my mom nor father went to college so this meant to me that I needed to be the exception and make them proud. The first semester of my freshman year was very eye opening. Hearing day after day that your high school years are the most important years in your life didn’t mean anything to me. I started hanging out with the wrong crowd and instantly gave up. Once I seen that the results of my actions weren’t anything that neither my parents nor myself would be proud of, I relocated and hit reset. I joined every club that was available at my leisure and also maintained straight A’s throughout the school years. Change in this case saved me. Things began to fall apart once I reached a comfortable place in high school. My dad became homeless and my mom lost her job and house. Finances became a huge issue but I continued to do well in school only because I knew that in life, excuses don’t count. I had given myself hope that I had one foot in the door to success. I worked and worked until I had reached my best potential. I am currently Vice President of my graduating class, activities director of Scholars Plus, National Honor Society member, Student Council member, etc. I may not be the smartest girl in the world nor the top scholar of my school but my struggle made me realize that I am one passionate and derived young African American female.


Madison Jones

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Most people are able to say that they’ve always wanted to be a doctor, or knew they wanted to be a doctor since they were little, but I’m definitely not one of those people. I can be quite indecisive in certain situations, and I’ve known that about myself for some time. But surprisingly, I made a big decision in my life when I finally figured out what I wanted to be. Aside from my extremely influential teacher, Ms. Armstrong, who led me to that realization one day in her broadcasting class, I had already been influenced about seven years prior to that, but failed to notice the impact it made.

In 2006, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Europe with my family. We spent time in Amsterdam, Madrid, and Barcelona. After that amazing journey, 2 years later I visited Florence, Rome, its holy Vatican City, and lastly Pisa. Traveling to such remarkable places, I learned that the world has so much to offer everywhere you go. I didn’t understand what that meant to me back then, but over time I came to the conclusion that I wanted to study more about various countries and make our people aware of issues other than America’s own. Over time, I began to think that going into broadcasting would allow me to do so, and after being placed in the broadcasting class during my senior year, I was absolutely positive that I wanted to be a news caster. So regardless of what it takes for me to get to that point in my life, I will be the person opening the eyes of those unaware of problems in countries all over, allowing a progressive discovery of their own ignorance, and bringing us all together to make our world a better place.


A'Jah Chandler

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Most people know Gabby Douglas as the first African American to win a gold medal in the United States Olympics, but I picture her as an over comer who pushes through hard times. I have never met Gabby Douglas, and I probably never will; however, the 4’11 girl wonder, that took the world by storm, has truly made an impact in my life. It is wonderful to know of Gabby’s success, but I was deeply touched when I learned of her journey to her accomplishments.

As the end of my senior year approaches, I have to prepare myself for college. Realizing the cost of college can be overwhelming. I live in a single parent household and my family receives a form of governmental assistance. I found hope after I recalled Gabby’s story. She too had financial problems, but she did not let that stop her. 
I imagine Gabby had to overcome the emotional stress of being separated from her family. During my high school career, I experienced a broken relationship with my father. Gabby reminded me to press through the struggles. I will continue to use this motivation as I prepare emotionally for my journey ahead. 

I will allow Gabby’s success to push me pass every obstacle that I may encounter on my journey. She pushed pass financial and emotional struggles. Gabby shows me that a wise person does not just sit around and wait for things to happen to them. She took ownership of her dreams, and her perseverance paid off as she became known as a trailblazer for the United States Olympics. With the love and support of family, Gabby motivated herself. “Today should be better than yesterday”, is the quote Gabby used to push herself and it worked every time.


Joshua Moore

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As a youth, you meet many people daily; however, you never know who will impact your life. When joining the Midnight Golf Program, I did not realize I would gain a mentor who would become so dear to me, and I am thankful for her. Ms. Renee Fluker has been a marvelous person who has significantly impacted my life. She has treated me like I was her own son, and I appreciate her encouragement to attend college to become a mathematics educator.

Ms. Renee created the Midnight Golf program for her son and other urban city students to learn golf, major fundamental aspects about school, etiquette, and business solutions. Over the years, this program has expanded so students like me would be able to participate. She has dedicated time to find various mentors and donors to make sure the program provides the best resources. Through the program, I am granted many enriching opportunities. I have learned the fundamentals of golf, to try my best at whatever I do and the importance of giving back to the community.

Ms. Renee has taught no matter where you come from you can make a difference in your community. I apply this concept when I tutor high school and college students with their mathematics assignments, and I am a volunteer who assist senior citizens in my community. I appreciate the valuable life lessons, and I plan to make her proud. I will give back to the program, because I would love for other students to experience this opportunity.


Lauren Black

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By far the person that has impacted my life the most has been my grandmother, Connie Black, with her kindred spirit, love, and selflessness. When I was an infant, my Dad was a single dad attending graduate school with custody of me and living with my grandparents. So, my grandmother has been my anchor with spiritual, physical, emotional, and educational support since the beginning of my life.

My grandmother introduced me to Oak Grove AME Church at an earlier age. She took me there in a baby carrier before I could walk and then at ages 3, 4, and 5 enrolled me in their preschool and kindergarten. I really love church and am actively involved in the Church School and the Young People’s Division of the Women’s Missionary Society (YPD). As YPD’s 1st Vice President, I am responsible for all fundraising and our numerous community service projects.

Supporting me by attending my Girls’ Varsity Swim Team and Concert Choir events, my grandmother increased my confidence and desire to do my best. She attended the lengthy swim meets and choir concert no matter where they were held. Several swim meets were as far away as Oxford, MI. Another example of her support is her making sure that I completed the requirements to participate in an awesome tour of Europe with the People to People Ambassador program last year. Now that I am about to graduate, she keeps me focused on meeting my senior deadlines and qualifying for college.

My grandmother has instilled in me values of religion, education, humility and family that hopefully will guide me throughout my life as I make major decisions and become a contributing citizen in the global society.


Austin Zielke

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Gasping for breath, lungs wheezing, and feet burning, after running numerous laps around the track, I will think twice about making the same mistake for the 3rd time in a row. Austin Diehl. Every time I hear that name I cringe. Fear runs through me and I remember all of the physical and mental pain I had to endure. I also think about how much that man has taught me up to this day. Austin Diehl was my drumline instructor for Chippewa Valley High School from 2010-2013, and he was not an easy man to deal with. He never accepted giving up or quitting as an answer, he expected perfection. He would always find something to fix, from hitting the drum wrong to having the proper facial expression or attitude. Sure, the guy was a jerk a lot of the time, but that’s what drove you to perfection. You can never learn from someone if they constantly compliment you and tell you everything you’re doing right. Austin was never unfair, he expected you to perform at the peak of what he thought your abilities were. 

He has taught me to never just look at all of the good things you do, look at the bad. If you’re really good at doing something, there is no need to continuously practice it. What’s holding you back are the bad things. Practice the bad things until you never get it wrong. Practice it so much that your muscles will think twice about messing up. Practice making the bad things good until you absolutely can’t get it wrong.

This has changed how I look at things, especially in my future. It has motivated me to perfect every single weakness I have and push me to never make a mistake. Will mistakes happen? Absolutely, it is human nature. But how you fix those mistakes determines how successful you will be not only in your career, but in your life. 


Jason Wysocki

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This past summer I went on a mission trip to Jamaica, and that event has had a huge impact on my life. I went with a small group of high school seniors and juniors from my church. On this trip we helped fix up a school and teach vacation bible school to many young children in Jamaica. Two aspects of the trip have had a huge impact on my life. One of them is, I strengthened the friendships I had with the people I went with. Though I have been friends with a few of the people I went with for years, we are now closer than ever. This is very important to me, because I really did need some close friends that would always be there for me. 

Another impact this trip has made is I now see the positive aspect in every situation that is handed to me. While in Jamaica, I saw that the people there had very few material possessions and yet they seemed so much happier than most people in America. This has shown me that you can be happy and be positive no matter what your circumstances are. On the last day we were there, we brought some playground toys for the kids to use; the children were overjoyed with having a few balls and squirt guns to play with. Seeing how happy they were with even the simplest things has helped me realize how truly blessed I am and to be happy with what I have. I realized that some people have it so much worse than me, but manage to live a far happier life than I ever have.  


Arron Williams

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My life has been impacted by one single word and event during my life. That action that I have been impacted by is relocation. Before I start, I'd just like to say that at the end of my third grade year I was moved out of state along with my mother, father and brother, Mark. I started the 4th grade in Baltimore County, in the state of Maryland. At the end of one February I ended up coming back to Michigan near the end of my 8th grade year. Starting my first week back in Southfield, Michigan was a huge transition from Maryland. 

People always referred to how I dressed or how I enunciated my words, in other words, how I spoke. They said I spoke so "white", whatever that meant. I found it ignorant to bring race in between how someone spoke. But I assumed they just meant to say I spoke so proper and fluently. I wasn't raised in the "hood" I guess most of them would say, as I was raised in the suburbs. Moving back, however, changed the “accent” problem I “had”, but my knowledge on how to speak has only increased.

This transition from a suburban area changed my whole outlook on life. This allowed me to open my eyes and realize that people aren’t nice everywhere. In response I choose who I really get to know and include inside my life. I found it harder in the city, than in the suburban areas from which I moved.


Davon Wheeler

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The most significant person in my life is my Dentist. For the last year I have been volunteering at his office. Such an opportunity had led to realize my goal of becoming a Medical Doctor. Dr. Hoffman has been so impactful because he had gone out of his way to help me develop real life skills. I have learned not only the business end of running a successful medical establishment but also the interpersonal aspects. What is a business without its customers? What is a Doctor with his patients? Being able to see this and many other connection has transformed me into a much more professional and thoughtful person. It has also pushed me along a path I will never shy away from, one that will lead me not only into college but beyond into my career as a Medical Doctor. A Doctor who embodies the same careful, supportive, and empowering characteristics that I associate with my mentor Dr. Hoffman.


Katelyn Tomasello

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I never realized just how many people and moments helped shape my life until I was trying to pick just one individual. The statement, “It takes a village to raise a child,” comes to mind while thinking about my own childhood. For as long as I can remember, my mom and dad have worked long hours to make ends meet, causing them not to be able to spend as much time with my sisters and I. To my relief, we weren't left with a mean babysitter or someone we didn't know because my Aunt Alicia was always willing to watch us. I use the term loosely when I refer to her as my aunt. This special aunt has influenced and caused a larger impact in my life than any of my other aunts. I would be more apt to refer to her as a second mom than an aunt. 

My Aunt Alicia gave me the courage to do what I was scared to do by constantly encouraging me to go out and do my best. She was always there at ceremonies and sporting events. She taught me that family was important not only by words, but by actions which she demonstrated in many ways by helping my mom and dad take care of us. My aunt also contributed a significant amount of help to my grandma. When I got to high school, my Aunt Alicia returned to college to get her teaching degree and further her education. Even though I know this wasn't her intention, watching her work harder than ever to take classes and substitute teach at the same time showed me that it’s never too late to do something and when there is a will, there is a way. As I go further into my life and education, I will use all that she has taught me to keep going and push toward what I want to do, while at the same time trying to put my family first and make an effort to treat the people in my life with importance.


Cierra Taylor

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There was a time in my life when reading was a major challenge and I felt inferior to my peers. I could recite words on paper, but couldn’t understand what I was reading. It was a huge struggle and severely impacted my confidence and ability to excel.

Thank God for my mother who recognized the deficiency and enrolled me in a program called Kumon Math and Reading. It changed my life and the way in which I learned. I was able to develop my reading skills and improved my grasp of the information I was receiving. Also, although I was doing well in math, I discovered how to calculate numbers using “mental math” and “number sequencing”. I’m proud to say that my struggles ended. English became my favorite subject. I can be found at any given time visiting libraries, reading an electronic book, writing short stories and constructing poetry. 

Today, I’m more confident in my ability to effectively communicate. I came to appreciate that without basic reading and comprehension skills, it’s impossible to succeed at ones fullest potential. I no longer shy away from a good conversation or class project. My critical thinking skills have greatly improved and assisted me with planning, developing and implementing various projects, not just in school, but in everything I do. 

I believe that anything is possible if you can envision the accomplishment. I’ve been successful in maintaining high academic honors throughout high school despite a very challenging schedule of honors, AP and IB classes. 

Moving forward, it’s my goal to obtain an advanced degree in Business and Communications with an entrepreneurship vision of helping others to overcome barriers to success. I conclude by saying that nothing I’ve accomplished is because of me, but my Father who created me. 


Breanna Sullivan

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Character building moments have often tested my mettle and offered me personal growth beyond measure. During my freshman year in high school, my family was struggling financially. My mom is a congestive heart failure patient with very costly medical bills. While we were in the process of attempting to pay these bills, we became victims of predatory lending. To make things worse, our home was being foreclosed. We had absolutely nowhere to go. Fortunately, through a county program, we were introduced to Habitat for Humanity. 

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization that helps people that ordinarily wouldn't be able to afford a home, achieve homeownership. Before moving into a Habitat home, you must complete 300-500 hours of sweat equity. We had to do 250 because my mom is a single parent. This sweat equity consisted of a variety of construction tasks to build our home and the homes for other families in the program. Due to my mother's condition, I was the primary person in our family completing these hours.

When I began working with Habitat I honestly did not want to do the work. I even remember hiding in the closets of a house so I would not have to. My mentality changed after about 2 weeks of "working". I actually got to meet some of the other Habitat recipients and hear their stories. While listening I realized that even though I was in a bad predicament, I was still in a better position than most people. From that moment on, I put my all into my work. I fell in love with the satisfaction that you get from helping people. Habitat opened the door for me to join other community service organizations, and make the decision to be a lawyer so I could continue to help others.


Ralph Smith

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I believe that everything in life happens for a reason and that every single snapshot is a part of a bigger picture. I believe this because my life has been a testament to it. It all started the summer of 2011. I had been depressed for a while at this point. I just drifted through each day. One night I found myself staring into a container of pills. I don’t know what I was thinking, but the next moment I remember, I was on the floor and that container was empty. I woke up later that night next to a pool of vomit filled with half-dissolved capsules. My mom found me and cared for me as if I was a baby again. It made me finally feel… at home.

But it wasn’t my attempted suicide that made the greatest impact on my life, it was what came later. At the 2013 Michigan PTA convention, I was asked to be a panelist on a discussion about bullying, teen suicide, and depression. I had no idea what to say, being the only person on the panel without a doctorate, so I just told them my story. 

After the discussion, I was barraged with countless complements, dozens of heartwarming stories and so many “thank you’s.” All the parents told me they were going home to talk to their children. I go to sleep hoping that I helped at least one person that day, and to this day I try to do my part to care for others. I will fight to make sure no one else makes the stupid decision I made. I believe I survived for a reason; if I couldn’t help others dealing with depression then it all would have been for nothing. My survival has changed my life forever.


Christian Sands

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Influences cause people to change their way of life, or even how they think. Impact is to have a great effect on something or someone. Mr. Sean Smith has had the most impact on my life because, he introduced me to the world of classical music and he is a great role model, for me to look up to and to aspire to become.

Mr. Smith has had the most impact on my life because he introduced me to the world of classical music. Through Mr. Smith I have learned to enjoy playing classical. He also pushed for me to gain exposure in the classical music world. For example, he told me to start studying cello privately and to join different musical groups for me to participate in, so I could gain experience. If I hadn't done that I would not have progressed as quickly and efficiently as I have. Before I met him I planned on making a career as a lawyer. But when Mr. Smith sent me to all of those groups for me to play music in I formed a passion for music that I need to pursue.

Mr. Smith has had the most impact on my life because he is a great role model for me to look up to. Mr. Smith is a successful African American man that was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, he still went to college and got his dream job. 

Mr. Sean Smith has had the most impact on my life because he introduced me to the world of classical music, and he is a great role model for me to look up to.


Monisha Sanders

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One person who has made a significant impact in my life is Shawnita Sealy-Jefferson. Mrs. Sealy-Jefferson taught an ACT preparation class at a college fair that I attended. While telling the class about herself, I learned that she was an accomplished Postdoctoral Fellow at Wayne State University who had completed eleven years of college and graduated debt free with a Public Health and Doctorate in Epidemiology. Her success felt contagious and prompted me to action while peeking my interest in Clinical Laboratory Science. Because she had inspired me, I immediately contacted her with questions concerning my future and also began applying for several scholarships. Mrs. Sealy-Jefferson has changed my life in many ways. Among these include: taking the time to guide me in the right direction educationally, advising me while applying for colleges, and instilling in me this principle “You need to have the highest level of education available in order to have the largest impact. Your goal should be to make it to the top of the pyramid”. Shawnita Sealy-Jefferson has touched me deeply on a personal level. Even though I was a stranger, Mrs. Sealy-Jefferson did not hesitate to enlighten me on what my future holds. She realized that I was passionate about college and my pursued career and never neglected to share her exceptional past experiences with me, while encouraging me to create my own. The endless appreciation I have for her cannot be fully expressed. Never again will I turn a blind eye to someone who is eager to learn something from me. In life, I will take all the beneficial advice that has been given to me and pass it on to those who are willing to receive it. Mrs. Sealy-Jefferson has taught me to never settle for average; aim high.


Nicole Salem

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When someone asks me who has influenced me most in my life I cannot help to think of the one and only Mrs. Denise Bryan. Mrs. Bryan was an educator at the elementary school I attended and worked with a numerous amount of people. Anytime you needed a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on you could always turn to her. When I was in middle school I received the devastating news that she had developed breast cancer. I can remember the day I found out that this had happened; I was in shock and disbelief.

While Mrs. Bryan was going through this hard time it never seemed like her spirits were down. Even though things were happening in her life she never wanted anyone to worry. People used to ask her “how do you not let things bother you through such tough times?” Mrs. Bryan would simply reply by telling them that if you stop believing and give up there is nothing left to life. 
Sadly, on September 18th, 2012 Mrs. Bryan had passed away. The way I think of it is that she may have not been done fighting but God could not see her fight anymore. I also think that God takes the best. I know she is not suffering anymore and is looking over her loved ones every chance she gets.

Mrs. Bryan has been the most influential person to me because not only did she teach me to keep my head up but she showed me to never stop believing. Knowing that there will be troubling times in the future I will have to apply what she preached. Never give up, believe in yourself, and do your best to make your dreams become a reality.