From their home base on the second floor of the Commerce and Finance Building at University of Detroit Mercy, 33 sixth- to eighth-grade girls are learning the ins and outs of college life, exploring careers that might match their interests and personality, and seeing firsthand what real success and happiness looks like for educated women who have fulfilling, well-paying careers.
These young girls are part of Mercy Education Project’s Emerging Leaders program, a four-week program that runs for the entire month of July, helping girls who live in southwest Detroit learn about college and careers.
“Most of the girls in our program do not know people who have gone to college,” says Melanie Ward, director of the Girls’ Programs at Mercy Education Project and coordinator of Emerging Leaders.
She says that most of the girls have a lack of knowledge about college, how it can benefit them and what to expect. But after spending weeks on a college campus and visiting other campuses around the region, the fears quickly melt, and they become more knowledgeable about the choices they have.
“We visited a lot of colleges,” says Analisa Alvarez, 15, who attended the program last year. “It gave me a view that you can either go to a small college or to one that’s really big with a lot of people. It made me think about what kind of environment do I really want to be in. Do I want to be in small classrooms like I am today in high school or do I want to go to 200 or 400 student study halls?”
Before she attended the program, both she and her mother, Monica Alvarez, were mostly familiar with well-known state schools, like Michigan State University and University of Michigan. It was beneficial to them both to learn about other options, including Schoolcraft College, Eastern Michigan University, University of Detroit Mercy, and Oakland University. (Read more.)