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Linda Mah
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Grads Return for Alumni Day 2016

Graduates Deliver Advice to High School Students

Dozens of Kalamazoo Central and Loy Norrix high school graduates returned to their alma maters on Dec. 23 to share their college experiences with current students.

It was the annual Alumni Day celebration in which older students share with younger students advice for successfully completing high school and achieving success in college.

Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice welcomed alumni back for classroom visits in both schools.

“It’s a powerful experience for our young people to see you as the elders now. They look at you in a new light,” Rice said. “They view you — older sisters and brothers, cousins, and friends — as elders worth listening to. You are important to their maturation.”

He encouraged the older students to talk not just about college life but also about high school success, because they’ve already conquered that challenge and can talk with expertise.

“As we poured into you, please pour into them and help them use their promise,” Rice said.

Some of the alumni advice is below:

Take advantage of high school to prepare for college. Joseph Richardson, who is attending Western Michigan University, and Daylin McCants, who is a student at Grand Valley State University, urged their former teachers at Kalamazoo Central to “be mean,” and to challenge high school students to work harder. Andrew Kaylor told students that KC can more than prepare them for college — if they work hard and take advantage of programs such as Advanced Placement classes, Education For the Arts and Education For Employment. “I didn’t feel any less prepared than students who went to Cranbrook or Detroit Country Day,” said the Kalamazoo College chemistry senior.

Read the course syllabus. “Your syllabus is the key to your success. Definitely pay attention to it,” Taylor Washington told Kalamazoo Central students. She attends Michigan State University and hopes to study business. Professors hand out a syllabus, which provides an outline of the course, reading lists, assignments, test and quiz schedules, and grading policies.

Study early and often. Washington said, once you have that syllabus in hand, start studying. “It’s very, very key to being ahead of the game. If you see something is due, stay on track,” she said. “Pay attention. Professors don’t accept late work.” Getting used to studying on your own without constant guidance, is one of the biggest challenges, the alumni told students. The grading can be much tougher in college, WMU student Alana Whitehead told Loy Norrix students. “It’s frustrating because your entire grade can be based on three assignments,” she said.

Get up, get going, work hard. A number of alumni said that one of the biggest challenges was finding the self-motivation to get up and get to class. Breana Ortiz has two small children, and time management has been key to her college success. She often has to study after her children are in bed. “Sometimes you just have to go with it and get things done,” said Ortiz, who attends WMU, where she’s also managed to find time for two internships. Emily Olivares, who graduated from KC in 2012 and from WMU in 2016, said she’d suggest the high schools actually start talking about the mechanics of college, and review topics such as time management, paying attention to the syllabus, and the importance of attending office hours.

Reach out to your professors.
“Be real. College is not a piece of cake,” said Faruq Schieber, who is attending Kalamazoo College. Schieber and Christopher Tyson, who attends Michigan State University, told K-Central students that they need to reach out to college professors, who are often busy with research and writing. Schedule a meeting during office hours or send an email to discuss questions that can’t be answered in class. Remember that instructors are not interested in students who don’t show that they are committed and interested.

Study abroad. Did you know that the Kalamazoo Promise will help cover the costs of study abroad? Amyre Dennis, who is a student at Western Michigan University, has gone to China twice, she told Loy Norrix students. It’s been key to helping her master Chinese. But more than that, she said, “Study abroad made me a better person, more well-rounded, aware of different cultures and different types of people. Each and every one of you should get out there and push yourself.”

Don’t quit. Alex Hoyle encouraged Kalamazoo Central students to never give up. He is not currently attending college, but he hopes to enroll in KVCC and to build his grade point average. He admitted that when he graduated, his grades were not what they should have been. “But you can get a second chance,” with hard work and effort, he said.
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