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Promise Path: Giving Students the Tools to Navigate Campus Life and Beyond

By James Martinez

Talk to Prisila Lopez or Mikayla Sanders about life, juggling a job and college classes, and you see why having a coach in her respective corner has been so important.

Both women are going to college through the Detroit Promise program, which made a college degree accessible. To make graduation a reality, they also are part of the Detroit Promise Path, a student-support service that includes a coaching component. Both programs are administered by the Detroit Regional Chamber.

“It’s provided financial, academic, and emotional stability,” said Sanders, 19, a sophomore at Macomb Community College majoring in Software Engineering. “One of the greatest parts of the Promise was my counselor. Whether it was dealing with my financial aid or mental health, she was always there.”

Lopez, 22, agrees. The Wayne State University student hopes to become an elementary-school teacher, and her coach has helped with a variety of tips, especially related to time management.

“Whenever I felt discouraged or unmotivated, he would always talk to me, and that encouraged me a lot,” Lopez said.

The Detroit Promise Path is about creating community among Detroit Promise students as well as relationships between campus coaches. The Chamber’s goal is to support these students throughout their campus journey, bolstering their personal and academic growth as they work their way through vocational training, two-year community college or a four-year college program.

“This is about us reaching students who need the support the most,” said Wytrice Harris, The Chamber’s manager of the Detroit Promise Path. “These are often first-generation college students who show up on campus knowing little to nothing about what college is supposed to be about. … Detroit Promise Path is our commitment to support each student during that transition from high school to college, all the way to graduation.”

 

The Detroit Promise provides the funding to ensure these students can afford college, Harris said, but the Path coaches ensure they feel supported every step of what may feel like an otherwise challenging journey.

“Working with the program is heart-work. I have enjoyed seeing the students grow and develop in the program. Once students realize that college isn’t something that you can just put on top of everything else they are doing or plan to do, that unlocks the door,” said Mark D. Yancy Jr., the Applebaum Family Success Coach at Henry Ford College.

Those coach-to-student connections make all the difference – students say they have the tools to navigate campus and more.

“Education is key to changing the outcomes for students and in turn, families in the Detroit community,” Harris said. “In a city where the poverty rate is extremely high, a certificate or degree opens doors that students may not have even realized existed and holds that door open for generations to come.”

James Martinez is a freelance writer and content creation consultant in Metro Detroit.