Committed to excellence and opportunity: university program cultivates success

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UM-Flint student Jayden Johnson
UM-Flint student Jayden Johnson

Jayden Johnson began his undergraduate career at UM-Flint in the fall of 2018 and attributes the Committed to Excellence & Opportunity (CEO) pre-college program as a key contributor to his ongoing success.

The CEO program is part of the university's Office of Educational Opportunities Initiatives (EOI). The pre-college program provides middle and high school students with a wide range of academic workshops, and leadership and cultural opportunities to increase college access, retention, and completion.  

"CEO gave us many life lessons to prepare us to go anywhere – and to take and apply the lessons they nurtured in us where we go," Johnson said.

Active in the Department of Theatre and Dance, Johnson is doing well academically, and enjoying the life and culture on campus.

"The CEO program is beneficial to students in the Genesee County area because it gives our students the opportunity to be mentored and coached by current University of Michigan-Flint students and staff, engage in a summer residential experience, and participate in PSAT and SAT prep course programs," said Reginald Motley, director of EOI.

"The students who are part of the CEO program dedicate two Mondays a month during their high school years to attend workshops and learn success strategies. Those students who complete all four years of the program, during ninth through twelfth grade are eligible to receive a four-year, full tuition scholarship to the University of Michigan-Flint. The scholarship is one of the biggest incentives in attracting students to the program and it keeps them motivated and engaged."

Johnson started in the CEO program the summer after eighth grade and said he continually learned about time management, being organized, personal presentation, and focus.

"The program helped me understand who I am," said Johnson. "There are a lot of mentors connected to this program. Looking at them and how they carried themselves, I saw what I wanted to be."

The initiative also includes taking math, science, and English classes on campus, job shadowing, and learning life skills, such as financial literacy. During the summer program, CEO participants have the opportunity to live in a UM-Flint residence hall for five weeks. They also visit other universities around the country to learn about various campuses, cultures, and opportunities.

"We prepare them both academically and socially," said Diamond Wilder, CEO assistant program manager. "We give them university classroom and work experience, along with the opportunity to be on their own. The program is about making sure participants understand all the different facets of college life. College can be a culture shock. Being able to cultivate and foster greater comfort in the environment while they are younger can eliminate barriers they may face."

CEO graduate Meme Foster

This month, eighteen high school students graduated from the program, according to CEO assistant program manager Diamond Wilder. During the year, more than 200 middle school and high school students participated in the initiative.  

Carman-Ainsworth High School senior Meme Foster graduated from the program this month. She initially signed up in the sixth grade and spent a week in the dorms during her first summer in CEO. She plans on studying nursing at UM-Flint.  

"The program helped me out of my shell, taught me about responsibility, and helped prepare me for college," Foster said. 

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