Wayne State hosted actor and author Hill Harper and teens from his Manifest Your Destiny (MYD) Foundation last week as part of an annual university collaboration designed to inspire and empower local high school students.
As part of the weeklong “Summer Empowerment Academy,” 12 incoming high school freshmen toured Wayne State’s campus and the surrounding community, met with staff and faculty, and talked with officials and peer mentors from Wayne State’s Warrior Vision and Impact Program (VIP) about their college plans and career ambitions.
In addition to attending college prep workshops, the dozen students — who hailed from Ron Brown, YES Charter Prep, Henry Ford Academy middle schools — were taken on tours of the WSU School of Medicine, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the W Pantry, the Fisher Mansion and downtown Detroit. They also visited the Roasting Plant coffee shop and an art gallery, both of which are owned by Harper.
Furthermore, the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts facilitated and sponsored an art project at the Fisher Mansion where the students painted a piece inspired by visual artist Mickalene Thomas. Harper told them that he will hang the painting in the Fisher Mansion.
Harper, whose Manifest Your Destiny program also operates in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, spoke to the students on Friday during lunch at the Student Center Ballroom.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Kenya Swanson, coordinator of Warrior VIP. “The young people were engaging, bright and talked eagerly with the peer mentors we brought in from Warrior VIP. We were very happy and proud to be able to work with them.”
This is the second year of the partnership, which MYD struck up with Wayne State through the office of Provost Keith Whitfield and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. The one-week, free Summer Empowerment Academy is based on Hill's two books for young people — Letters to a Young Brother and Letters to a Young Sister — which promote the development of skills in self-advocacy, self-empowerment, study skills, goal setting and self-esteem. Participating students were selected from an application process.
“We are building more expansive and robust relationships with various areas of the university,” said Karen Grace-Baker, an educational strategist key to fostering ties between Wayne State and MYD. “We currently have officials from enrollment, admissions, communications and arts, and the School of Medicine involved. We hope to include the Mike Ilitch School of Business, TechTown, and other Wayne State departments and affiliates next summer. Our goal is to expand the program each year to introduce the students to different areas of the university.”