Cranbrook's Horizons Upward Bound helps students get the upper hand

Summer is wrapping up and school is about to start again across Michigan, but for some students - they never took a break.

For some Detroit area students, class never stopped - because they chose to keep going to class, even when school wasn't technically in session. It's part of a 50 year old high achievement program.

Some teens may have spent the summer preoccupied with social media and parties, but 17-year-old Lohany Avila has been laser focused to make sure she gets the college education she desparately wants.

"That was always something I wanted to do because I think it gives you more opportunities and you can get the job you want to have," Lohany said.

The Honduras native has been encoruaged from a young age to read and question. She approaches life with her father's words of wisdom.

"I always tell her quitters never win and winners never quit," her father Miguel Hernandez said.

Across town, on Detroit's east side, a similar scenario is unfolding. Khalil Williams could be out with friends, but makes school his priority.

"In my neighborhood, the common thing to do is to skip class, hang out with everyone else, but I don't want to be part of the group, I want to be the leader. I want to guide people, show them there's a better life beyond this," Khalil said.

Living in a single parent home, Khalil's mom pushes education above anything else.

"I told him, it may not look like it, but your mama is struggling. This is a struggle, so if you don't want to struggle, it's important to go, especially if you get the education to do it," Yolanda Williams said.

Because of their academic excellence, Khalil and Lohany were hand-picked to join an intensive study program at Cranbrook - putting their dreams of college within reach.

Boasting a graduation rate of over 90%, Cranbrook's Horizons Upward Bound is an academically enriched program aimed toward low income, first generation college students currently in the Detroit Public School system.

"We don't go for that kid who has all As, we don't care. We don't go for the kid who's failing. We go for the kid who wants to make a difference," Dr. Darryl Taylor said.

All of the students in the program gave up their summer plans to be there. They live on campus from June to August and put in a 10 hour academic day studying math, science, English and world languages. They're up for the challenge.

"It has raised the bar. My expectations are higher now. I know what to expect from myself. I know that I can do better than what I think if I push myself," Lohany said.

"I feel more of a leader than I ever have. People see hope in me. I feel really proud of myself with what they've made me become," Khalil said.

Raising GPA's above a 3 point average, with 80% of their students performing better on their ACTs, Horizons Upward Bound is not just a summer program. The winter phase runs throughout the academic year providing tutors 3 Saturdays a month for the next 4 years and lessons in success to last a lifetime.

Our two honor roll students have aspirations to be an engineer and a social worker. Some of the Upward Bound graduates have gone on to attend Harvard, Princeton, Cornell and West Point, achieving an 80% scholarship rate.

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