Ann Arbor Tech and STRIVE

Recently Bob Mull (left) discussed personal budgets and taxes with Ann Arbor STRIVE students. Bob Holmes (below) is another of the Rotarians who mentors STRIVE students.
It’s my pleasure this year to serve as Co-chair of our STRIVE program. STRIVE is an Acronym that stands for “Students Taking Renewed Interest in the Value of Education”.
We work with Ann Arbor Tech students to help guide and motivate them to improve their academic performance during their senior year.
I’d like to tell you about some of the leaders at Ann Arbor Tech, Washtenaw Community College and here at Rotary that make this program possible.
It couldn’t work without the strong support by their principal Tyrone Weeks their counselor Daphne Slater, both of whom are here today. Their positive input keeps the students focused on their studies and working with the STRIVE mentors.
The success of our students also depends on consistent help from Liz Orbits at Washtenaw Community College. She provides information about entrance requirements, PEL grants and logistical support that is crucial to the successful matriculation of our students at Washtenaw.
A key part of STRIVE is the one-on-one work that the mentors do.  This part of our program is coordinated by Andy Dahlman. Mentoring is a unique opportunity for our Rotary members to encourage students to continue their education. It’s a challenging and rewarding experience. Your work as a mentor helps to move youth in the direction of achieving more productive and fulfilling lives through education. I think it’s really hard to top that.
Our STRIVE at work program coordinated by Rick Reid and Mary D’Alesandro gives the students a chance to visit local businesses and see first-hand the type of opportunity that a better education can provide.  Indeed tomorrow, the students get a chance to meet Rich Sheridan at their visit to Menlo Innovations.
Michael Tyson the co-chair of STRIVE is already heading up the organizing committee for the May STRIVE scholarship presentation meeting. Please say yes when he comes around for some help.
The students involved in our program are ones who could easily be left behind in our highly educated society.  They would have been unlikely to progress to an education beyond high school.  Several of the students who have received STRIVE scholarships have gone on to Associate Degrees and one is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree. STRIVE impacts not only the scholarship winners and their family members, but also provides a visible role model of success for younger students at Ann Arbor Tech who see a possibility to further their educations.
I’ve got to tell you about their graduation last June. I wish that all of you could have been there to see the support from the family members and friends.  The huge Morris Lawrence auditorium at WCC had a standing room only audience. During the ceremony, the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor’s STRIVE program was singled out and thanked by the Principal and our STRIVE committee members who attended where honored by an ovation.
We’re always looking for volunteers and mentors in the STRIVE program.  Please consider joining us as sharing the amazing gift of your life experiences with a youth who may not have had such a role model.  You really can and with your support you already have make a difference in their lives. (Contact for STRIVE:

STRIVE at Work 2011

On November 16, four STRIVE students and their advisors, Ross Dunbar and Daphne Slater visited Warde Medical Laboratory for their first STRIVE at work encounter of the year. The visit was set up by Rotarian Rick Reed and hosted by Dave Keren.  The students, Lauren Barnes-Whitehead, Audrey Bauer, Oliver Carter and Autumn Curry-Taylor first met with Dave and William G. Finn, M.D., the new medical director of the lab.  In their first session, the students learned how even a local laboratory can grow.  Warde Medical Laboratory began at St. Joe’s and now has clients in 15 states.
Although Warde Medical Laboratory is an esoteric reference laboratory, the students learned about the wide variety of job opportunities in this and other high-tech firms in the region.  In addition to technical personnel, such laboratories need to hire individuals with training in business management, accounting, and marketing. The students got to see some of the testing firsthand for how the laboratory detects a variety of conditions including: curable tumors that can cause hypertension, acute leukemia, sickle cell anemia and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
In addition to touring the laboratory, the students enjoyed talking with a Warde Medical Laboratory employee, who had attended Washtenaw Community College and now works in the accounting department of the laboratory. He encouraged the students to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the STRIVE program and to aggressively pursue their education.  Finally, the students enjoyed a pizza lunch with informal discussions with the staff.

AAPS News, Monday, August 16, 2010 (
Stone students STRIVE for college, Rotarians help with scholarships
By Casey Hans
AAPSNews Service
Dylan Farr can’t say enough good things about going to college.
Not only does he love his classes and teachers, he is learning a lot about the craft of writing and hopes to develop it into a career by earning his associate’s degree in technical writing at Washtenaw Community College.
Dylan Farr, now a student at Washtenaw Community College, is a Stone High School graduate who went through the STRIVE program. At WCC, he has a weekly radio show.
“It’s going really well,” said the 2009 Stone High School graduate. “I’ve been able to pass all of my classes and I’ve met really interesting people. In high school, everybody’s in little cliques and I didn’t care much for that. I’ve made a lot of friends in college and I’ve learned a lot.”
He’s able to attend WCC thanks to a STRIVE scholarship – a 10-year-old partnership between the school and mentors from the Downtown Ann Arbor Rotary Club. Students Taking Renewed Interest in the Value of Education, or STRIVE, allows seniors to qualify for scholarships based on their academic improvement through their senior year. Teaming students with adult mentors, the program is designed to encourage them to attend college and pursue a career path.
Farr has attended college for a year now, and despite a recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, he said he’s determined to get that degree. “I’m not going to let this get me down,” he said. “It’s not the end of the world.”
Farr even came back last spring to speak with graduating Stone seniors and share his story, encouraging them to continue their education. He not only takes college courses, but has his own weekly radio show on Orchard Radio, the WCC internet broadcast station. He is the son of Sharon Farr, who is a paraprofessional for the Ann Arbor district.
Encouraging scholarship use
Wendy Correll and Lois Jelneck co-chair the Rotary STRIVE committee. Correll said Rotary mentors talk with their charges about college, future career paths and work through whatever barriers they might have to using the scholarship money.
Wendy Correll, executive director of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation and co-chair of the Rotary STRIVE Committee.
“We’re not psychological counselors, but we’re there to help them set a path to get there,” explained Correll, who also heads up the AAPS Educational Foundation as its executive director.
In the past, the scholarships haven’t always been used. This year, club members, school counselors and WCC staff have worked together to ensure that students who receive scholarships use them. Mentors started meeting with students earlier in the year to develop a deeper relationship and they met more often as a group, hosting “Subway” lunches at the school.
Correll said the lunches brought the mentors and students together in a comfortable setting – the school – and allowed a lot of give and take. “It gave us a formal setting to meet with students,” she said. “Most of the time, we’ve had a large crowd of students there.”
Jelneck, a longtime Rotarian, has been involved with the program since the beginning. She said the mentorship component is instrumental to success. “You have to establish a relationship,” she said. “These kids really work hard to overcome a lot of obstacles.”
Having worked in different nursing roles and now as a home care consultant, Jelneck said she has often been paired with students who want to go into her profession. “I tell them nursing allows them to do anything you want. You can work most any hours – it’s very flexible,” she added.
The STRIVE program has touched many lives, Jelneck added. “It’s important to never give up on these kids,” she said. “We need to really nurture them and encourage them to go on. Give them a sense of worth.”
Students sign contracts at the start of their senior year promising to maintain good attendance, stay drug- and alcohol-free and improve academically. Students with the most-improved GPAs receive the scholarships. Rotary mentors sign on for two years: The first to guide students through senior year to graduation and college enrollment; the second year to mentor them through their first year at WCC, Correll added.
Scholarships are earmarked directly for WCC enrollment and the Rotary works closely with the registrar and financial aid office for a smooth transition. Money for the scholarships is raised mainly through the Rotary fundraisers: A golf and tennis outing in the summer and another major event during the year.
The 2010 scholarship recipients include: Stephen Armstead III, Bryanna Brandon, Alex DeHart, Nathaniel Graulich, Brittany Hayes, Shakayla Lee, Johntya Lyons, Kiandra Madison, Ashley McElroy, Alycia Perry, Chris Roopchand, Larissa Sutton, Candice Thomas and Quin-Tez Tomlin.
STRIVE parallels school’s goals
At Stone, Principal Sheila Brown said the expanded STRIVE effort ties in nicely with the school’s push to set an expectation of achievement among students, something she calls a “culture of college.”
“Now, it’s not a matter of if they graduate,” Brown said. “Our focus is to transition to college and a career. We help them find ways to make that come true.”
Brown said the school has hosted parent workshops on finance to get them involved with the process and tracks student academic progress carefully. For example: she personally reviews and signs each report card.
“We want to have the kids understand we’re serious about their academic performance,” she said. “It’s a way to say ‘we believe in you.’ ”
Counselor Daphne Slater said Stone had a higher percentage of graduates this year that earned STRIVE scholarships. “And that’s exciting. It really is. It’s about getting students into that mindset. … I’d like to see more kids make it to the end (with scholarships.)”
English and writing teacher Brittiany Sanford took on the role of grad coach at Stone this year. In her new role, she helped students find scholarships, fill out paperwork and she brought in college experts and took students on field trips to college campuses. Working closely with Washtenaw Community College, she took students there for prerequisite testing and got them enrolled.
She said the most rewarding part of working with STRIVE is seeing results. “It’s seeing the kids actually make it to the end,” she said.
Another way that students are encouraged about college and future careers is the STRIVE@Work program. Rotarian Rick Reid coordinates this part of the program, which takes students into the workplace for part of a day. There, they learn about corporate culture, available careers and talk with professionals.
“They really get a taste of what work is,” he said. “Most (employers) are more than willing to be part of this.”
He said encouraging students is one of the best gifts adults can give. “If you steal their hope in the future, then you’ve stolen everything,” he said. “The scholarship opportunity is the hope. I think it’s essential.”
Any business owner who would like to participate in STRIVE@Work can contact Reid at 734-904-1121 or via e-mail.

STRIVE @ Work, March 2010

STRIVE Students and Rotarians visited Warde Medical Laboratory on Friday, February 12, 2010. Three Warde employees are Washtenaw Community College students and alumni. They spoke to the STRIVE students about their jobs at Warde Medical Laboratory and opportunities for them at Washtenaw. Dr. David Keren gave the students a tour of the laboratory showing them how the lab diagnoses several conditions: leukemia, AIDS, sickle cell anemia, and how it monitors treatment for transplant patients. The visit concluded with Q&A session over lunch.