Harper Woods High School officials employed a bit of trickery to get Da’Carla Strong’s mother to the school over the lunch hour one day last week.
“Her counselor and teachers were telling me that I needed to come up here for an academic review, and I was questioning that because her GPA is a 3.9,” Dawana Davis said.
That near-perfect grade point average caught the eye of officials with the Community Choice Foundation Scholarship Program, too. Strong had applied for a scholarship, explaining her desire to become an architect and resurrect some of Detroit’s dilapidated buildings after college.
Her exemplary academic record, combined with focused ambition and a desire to give back to the greater Detroit area, led Community Choice to select her as one of 20 high school students the credit union’s foundation will honor this year with $5,000.
Officials with the credit union wanted Mom to be there to see it, so they employed fibbed a bit – it wasn’t a lie, actually, because Strong’s academic record was at the heart of the decision to recognize Strong at a surprise ceremony in front of 100 of her classmates.
“I was very surprised about what happened today,” Davis said
So was Strong, who sported a wide smile when she heard her name called by scholarship sponsor Mark Waad of Mark’s One Car Rental. Waad is a former student of Harper Woods student Superintendent Todd Biederwolf, and attributes his turn around from misguided teen to successful business owner to Biederwolf’s guidance and care.
Now Waad is giving the same care to students like Strong by contributing to the scholarship program.
His success story and Strong’s scholarship surprise filled the Harper Woods High School cafeteria with hope, enthusiasm, and cheers of congratulations from students and faculty in attendance.
Strong is described as a hard worker and high achiever by her educators. Her guidance counselor, Tameka Gaddis, said she is a “creative and dynamic leader and very deserving of this scholarship.”
Strong attributes her success to hard work, and encourages other students to pursue what makes them happy.
“Always reach your dream and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because if you put your mind to it, you can get it,” she said, sporting a large smile. “Today, I got what I wanted.”
Choice Foundation is giving 20 scholarships to metro Detroit students who, like Strong, plan to attend college in Michigan and commit to give back to the state after finishing their education.
The sixth annual Community Choice Foundation Scholarship Program evaluated students in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties based on factors including GPA, volunteer service, creative essay response and, in most cases, financial need, with a portion of scholarships offered based on merit alone.
All scholars will be announced in April and an awards ceremony will be held on May 8, featuring keynote speaker, Walbridge Chairman and CEO John Rakolta Jr. Walbridge, headquartered in Detroit, is one of the largest privately owned construction companies in the U.S. and is a big employer in Michigan.