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Students Celebrate Commitment to Higher Education at Detroit Scholarship Fund Summer Kickoff

“Get your stuff!”

That was the rallying cry Tyrone Bledsoe (pictured), founder and CEO of the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB), led during a motivational keynote address at the Summer Ceremony for the Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation’s Detroit Scholarship Fund (DSF) program on Aug. 11 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit.

The ceremony is held annually prior to the start of the school year to educate students who signed up for the DSF and celebrate their commitment to higher education. This year, more than 3,500 students registered for the DSF. Of those, 500-600 students are expected to enroll in community college classes for the 2015 fall semester.

Sharing a story about growing up during racial segregation in Grenada, Miss., Bledsoe told students how he was inspired to graduate from college and make a difference in the world after attending a sermon as a young boy at a church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke. He said King taught him anyone can get an education and aspire to greatness if they work hard.

“You are awesome by nature and great by choice,” Bledsoe said. “This is an investment in your future. Your college transcript will follow you for the rest of your life.”

Following the keynote address, students joined in a roundtable question-and-answer session with representatives from the five community colleges participating in the DSF program, including Henry Ford College, Macomb Community College, Oakland Community College, Schoolcraft College and Wayne County Community College District.

Since its inception in 2013, the DSF has doubled the number of Detroiters attending full-time courses at community colleges. Administered by the Chamber, the DSF is funded through the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation and subsidizes tuition and fees for Detroit-resident students who do not receive enough financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to provide a tuition-free path to an associate degree or technical certificate.

Lauren Wilson, a 2014 graduate of Henry Ford Academy School of Creative Studies, who attended the Summer Ceremony, is enrolled at Macomb Community College. Wilson said she is grateful for the opportunity to attend Macomb so that she can get her basic course requirements completed without debt. After graduating, Wilson plans to pursue further education in public relations and law in order to travel the world and help others as an international lawyer.

“The DSF has opened up a lot of doors for my future that I might not have otherwise known about,” she said. “The coordinators have been really helpful in answering our questions and making sure we succeed.”