My friend Joy is involved with a great organization called The Detroit College Promise. They provide scholarships to Detroit Public Schools. They were asking for 500 people to write a letter to inspire a high school freshman to focus on college. I figured, if I can harass an email scammer, I should be able to do this.
This was a great exercise for me. It made me think about some of my early academic struggles in high school, and the resiliance that it took to dig out. Let's just say National Honor's Society never came-a-knockin'.
The letter request was HERE
The Detroit College Promise Facebook Fan Page is HERE
Dear Prospective High School Student,
My name is Jerry. Once I was in your shoes. Four years of high school seemed like it would last forever.
My high school career started off on the wrong foot. Algebra was really tough, and I made the mistake of landing myself in Advanced English. This class, to me, was a struggle from Day 1. I was clearly over my head, and asked to be transferred to the normal English class. My teacher refused. Later, after I graduated, I realized that he was teaching me this lesson: you can’t transfer from most of life’s challenges. You need to face them.
In the spring of my freshman year, I joined the track team. Being the youngest of four, I always felt a little overshadowed by siblings and friends who were better than me at school, swimming, baseball and basketball. I saw track as my chance to “do my own thing”. It helped take my mind off of my classes. My English teacher was also my coach.
I found that as my efforts in track started paying off, my grades started improving. I was working just as hard as when I had struggled, but my attitude was much more positive. Soon, I decided to confront another weakness—swimming. As a kid, I could never pass a certain level. I wound up taking classes and becoming a lifeguard at the local pool. This was the best job ever!
When I graduated, I had raised my GPA high enough to qualify for a half-scholarship at the University of Detroit Mercy. There, I confronted another of my weaknesses: Math. College was probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. College was also one of the most rewarding and fun things that I’ve ever done. High school really prepared me for these challenges.
I went on to graduate from UDM and became a Mechanical Engineer. Today, I work as a Mechanical Engineer and Project Manager at Chrysler. I work on steering and suspension on Dodge Trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokees. I have a house, and provide a decent living for my wife and two children.
Each day, as I drive to work, I think about all of the hard work, and the people who helped me along the way. I was very blessed to have great and supportive parents and siblings. I owe a great deal to that English Teacher and Track Coach who made me tough it out. I also owe a great deal to the handful of people along the way who told me “I can’t”. Sometimes, proving your doubters wrong can be the greatest motivator.
At this point in my life, I can’t tell you a lot of specifics about the things that I learned in those high school or college classes. The biggest lessons that I learned weren’t related to any one subject. Rather, I learned about preparation, rising to my challenges, and having confidence in my abilities. These traits transfer to everything I do.
You’re heading to a new place, with a lot of new faces, and new challenges. You have a new beginning, and a clean slate. Don’t lose sight of College at the end of those four years.
You will undoubtedly run into some challenges. How you face these challenges defines who you are. Try not to dig yourself a hole like I did, but also know that if you run into trouble, there are people who can help you. You are the master of your destiny. If you study hard and have confidence in your abilities, you can go to college like I did. You can do this!
Best of luck to you!
P.S. – I’ll be thinking about you and praying for you over these next four years.