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Detroit — When choosing where to attend high school, Gregory Miller knew he was taking a risk when he picked Cass Technical High School over his neighborhood Renaissance High School.

“Something was just saying 'go to Cass.' I didn’t know why, and I didn’t really understand it,” he said. “My whole family wasn’t against it per se, because they’re pretty supportive, but they weren’t really understanding why I would choose to go all the way downtown.”

Now, Miller will be attending Western Michigan University in the fall with a $2,000 scholarship from the Rosa L. Parks Foundation. He is one of 25 Michigan high school seniors who will receive the one-time scholarship, named in honor of the late civil rights figure and longtime Detroit resident.

The scholarship recipients will be honored Thursday at Wayne State University. Denise Allen, a 1991 recipient, will be honored as Alumnus of the Year. The Rev. Larry L. Simmons of Baber Memorial AME Church will deliver the guest lecture.

The foundation was founded by The Detroit News and Detroit Public Schools and is supported by the Butzel Long law firm. 

Miller said Parks’ legacy is important to him because her civil rights work went far beyond the famous Montgomery bus boycott that started after she refused to give her seat to a white rider.

“A lot of people just know she sat on the bus, she got arrested and so forth. People don’t know a lot of the other work she did in her activism,” he said. “That truly inspires me because if she can do so much, during a time when the whole world seemed to be against her, I know that I can ignite that little spark that can start a whole revolution just like she did.”

Kim Trent, president of the foundation, said the scholarships commemorate Parks’ commitment to promoting education as an equalizing force for underprivileged groups.

“As someone who sacrificed so much to make America try to live up to its potential, I think it’s a fitting legacy for her to have these very successful men and women able to go to college because of Mrs. Parks,” Trent said.

Trent was a recipient of the scholarship in 1987 and attended Wayne State University. She now serves as chair of the Wayne State Board of Governors and credits the scholarship with jump-starting her career.

“Really, it made all the difference. I had been accepted to, I think, four colleges, and because of the scholarship I ended up staying here at Wayne State,” she said. “I don’t think those opportunities would have been there for me if it were not for the Rosa Parks Scholarship.”

Trent said essays from this year’s applicants covered everything from reproductive rights to LGBT equality and the #MeToo movement.

“These students seem to be very attuned to what’s going on in the world around them, and that really shined through in their scholarship essays,” she said.

One of the criteria for selection to the scholarship is an expectation that students will give back to their community as Parks did, Trent said.

Miller, who studied performing arts at Cass Tech and will do so at Western Michigan, hopes a career in theater will allow him to direct and produce shows that will impact and change the world.

“Not only is it just fun to perform, but I always loved to change the world and change people’s lives and make people have a better outlook on things,” Miller said. “I realized I can really do that through theater.”

He said his theater company’s production of "The Laramie Project," a play about the murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, showed him the social impact theater can have on an audience.

“Through that show, I realized how much of an impact theater can really have. I already had a general idea, but I didn’t truly realize it until we did that show,” Miller said. “The reviews came in and people were saying they have a completely different outlook on homosexuality.”

Many of this year’s recipients are already active leaders in their schools and communities. Alayna Reed, from Chippewa Valley High School, was secretary of the robotics club, a section leader in the school marching band and Student Leader of the Year for her school’s chapter of the National Honor Society.

Reed said her leadership ability played an important part in receiving the scholarship, and that she learned a lot about Parks since being notified about her successful application.

“I learned from her that even though it seemed to be a minor situation, it turned out to have a huge impact on the community as well,” she said. “It can start in your area, or in your classroom, or somewhere around you and can start a whole something different for everyone else.”

Reed will attend Kettering University in the fall to study electrical engineering. She hopes to give back by improving infrastructure in her community.

Because the scholarship receives hundreds of applications, students’ interests and career plans vary wildly, from medicine to entertainment. Trent said the common theme is that the scholars are all people who really care about making the world better.

“I think the great thing about our scholarship is that it really makes you see that no matter what your interest is in your career, these are kids who recognize they can make a difference,” Trent said. 

Meet the scholars

Ka’Tara Addison

Saginaw High School

Hometown: Saginaw

College: Delta College

Career Plans: Nurse practitioner

Parents: Stella Patman and Curtis Addison

Achievements: Secretary, Parent Teacher Student Association; Teen Advisory Council; National Honor Society, honor roll

Fawzia Ali

Innovation Central High School

Hometown: Grand Rapids

College: Grand Rapids Community College

Career Plans: Nursing

Parent: Ghulam Sakhi Ali

Achievements: National Honor Society; Dean’s List; Grand Valley State University Trio Upward Bound

Moniah Almaweri

Edsel Ford High School

Hometown: Dearborn

College: University of Michigan Ann Arbor

Career Plans: Neurosurgeon

Parents: Rasha Agagg and Nasser Almaweri

Achievements: National Honor Society; president, Arabic Honor Society, Arabic Club and Muslim Student Association; delegate, Congress of Future Medical Leaders; delegate, Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders; Link Crew

Emma Ayotte 

Canton Preparatory High School 

Hometown: Whitmore Lake

College: Washtenaw Community College

Career Plans: College professor, author

Parents: Julie Post and Christopher Ayotte

Achievements: Summa cum laude; editor, Key Club Bulletin; National Honor Society; Student of the Month for respect (October 2018), for compassion (April 2019); varsity cross-country track

Jenan Barakat

Fordson High School

Hometown: Dearborn

College: Wayne State University

Career Plans: Undecided

Parents: Hala and Youssef Barakat

Achievements: National Honor Society; secretary, student council; coordinator, Link Crew; honor roll

Kayla Brown

Renaissance High School

Hometown: Detroit

College: North Carolina A&T State University

Career Plans: Orthopedic surgeon

Parents: Chantel and Ken Brown

Achievements: President, National Honor Society; class secretary; vice president, student council; All-Regional, softball player; Detroit Public School League city champion-softball; youth volunteer, Matrix Human Services

Railyn Eaddy

Grand Rapids Montessori High School

Hometown: Saginaw

College: Grand Valley State University

Career Plans: Art design 

Parents: Lametria and Gregory Eaddy Jr. 

Achievements: Valedictorian; National Honor Society; Delta Gem Youth Group, Delta Sigma Theta Inc.; West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology; varsity soccer

Serena Enemodia 

Mott Middle College High School

Hometown: Flint

College: Texas Southern University

Career Plans: Nursing

Parents: Roseline and Charles Enemodia

Achievements: Associate degrees in science and general studies, Mott Community College; Award of Excellence, National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists; honors graduate 

Ali Eter

Crestwood High School

Hometown: Dearborn Heights

College: University of Michigan

Career Plans: Business administration and public policy

Parents: Ghada and Khalil Eter

Achievements: Salutatorian; class president; vice president, National Honor Society

Abtisam Hassan

Crestwood High School

Hometown: Dearborn Heights

College: University of Michigan

Career Plans: Diplomat

Parents: Halima Ali and Farah Zeidi

Achievements: Joyce Ivy scholar; vice president, student congress; member, MREACH, University of Michigan; member, Northwestern program; youth leader/representative, ACLU

Priyanka Laskar 

Hamtramck High School

Hometown: Hamtramck

College: Wayne State University

Career Plans: Pre-med

Parents: Sorbani and Prodip Laskar

Achievements: Valedictorian; National Honor Society; president, Leaders of Environmental Awareness and Preservation; executive board, Princess Project; varsity tennis

Anyah Lewis 

Farmington High School 

Hometown: Farmington Hills

College: Central Michigan University 

Career Plans: Child psychologist 

Parent: Aisha Lewis

Achievements: Praise Team, Detroit Worship Center; founder, high school minority student career fair; Detroit Girls Who Rock Award recipient, Rhonda Walker Foundation; member, District-wide diversity committee

Gregory Miller II

Cass Technical High School

Hometown: Detroit

College: Western Michigan University

Career Plans: Actor, director and producer

Grandmother: Theresa Mooring

Achievements: Intern, Public Theater, New York City; choreographer, school’s spring dance concert; shift manager, Detroit Water Ice Factory

Alayna Reed

Chippewa Valley High School

Hometown: Detroit

College: Kettering University

Career Plans: Electrical Engineering

Parents: Allison and Zachary Reed

Achievements: Secretary and student leader of the year, National Honor Society; secretary, Vex Robotics Club; Behind the Scenes Big Red Award for Robotics; section leader, tenor saxophones, “Big Reds” Marching Band

Deborah Rodriguez

Midland High School

Hometown: Midland

College: Northpoint Bible College, Grand Rapids

Career Plans: Social worker

Parents: Diana and Anthony LaRue

Achievements: Alan D. Groom Scholarship; National Honor Society; honor roll

Lamese Saab

Dearborn High School

Hometown: Dearborn

College: University of Michigan

Career Plans: Pre-med, pathologist

Parents: Faten Bazzi and Kassem Saab

Achievements: Class vice president; Robert F. Lucas award, Key Club international conference; past lieutenant governor and chair (district level positions), Key Club; three-time regional finalist and state competitor (pathophysiology test), H.O.S.A; National Honor Society; participant, Congressional Art Show and Black Box art gallery

Grace Sanders

Southfield Christian School

Hometown: Farmington Hills

College: University of Michigan

Career Plans: Operations or marketing executive

Parents: Angela and Darryl Sanders

Achievements: Summa cum laude; class president; National Honor Society; vice president, executive council; homecoming queen

Tanner Sims

Hill-McCloy High School

Hometown: Montrose

College: University of Michigan

Career Plans: Chemical engineer

Parent: Kim Sharp

Achievements: Summa cum laude; National Honor Society; track and field, set school record in 4x800-meter relay; Best Live Sports Broadcast award (2018), National Federation of High school Sports

Mariah Smith

Jackson High School

Hometown: Jackson

College: Michigan State University

Career Plans: Psychiatrist

Parents: Inez and Leon Prather

Achievements: Summa cum laude; National Honor Society; violinist, chamber orchestra

Maya Solomon

Cass Technical High School

Hometown: Detroit

College: Florida A&M University

Career Plans: Civil rights attorney

Parent: DiAnna Solomon

Achievements: Detroit organizer, National March for Our Lives; bronze medal, J.R.O.T.C; Academic All-State and Team All-State, girls tennis; keynote speaker, Pretty Brown Girl annual celebration; alumna, Midnight Golf Program

Mone’t Stewart

Chippewa Valley High School 

Hometown: Clinton Township

College: Spelman College

Career Plans: Obstetrician gynecologist

Parents: Tammy Wilson and LeRae Stewart

Achievements: President, student government; Outstanding Teaching Assistant of the Year; mentor/student, Math Corps, Wayne State University; executive board member, National Honor Society; executive committee, AKA Teens of Detroit; certificate of proficiency, National Health Science Assessment

Sydney Terry

Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy

Hometown: Saginaw

College: Spelman College

Career Plans: Actress

Parents: Glecia and Dureyah Tatum

Achievements: Superior award, solo musical, Michigan Educational Theatre Association; youth grant committee, Saginaw Community F.O.R.C.E.; membership and publicity officer, International Thespian Society; secretary, National Honor Society, nominee, Sutton Foster Ovation Awards

Chase Tomlin 

Grosse Pointe South High School 

Hometown: Detroit

College: Howard University

Career Plans: Corporate executive 

Parents: Tyra Spaulding and Edward Tomlin

Achievements: National Honor Society; Spanish National Honor Society; All Conference Team, varsity football; captain/co-captain, varsity football, basketball and track and field

Mackenzie Thompson

Chandler Park Academy High School

Hometown: Detroit

College: University of Michigan, Flint

Career Plans: Radiation therapist

Parents: Elizabeth and Lionel Thompson Sr.

Achievements: National Honor Society; class president; vice president, Lady Butterflies; state finalist, DECA; varsity cross-country track

Jena Wazny

St. Charles Community High School

Hometown: St. Charles

College: Central Michigan University

Career Plans: High school teacher

Parents: Kelli and Paul Wazny

Achievements: President, student council; National Honor Society; Band Leadership Council; MVP, Chesaning Coho Swim Club; MVP, cross-country track

Detroit News Rosa Parks Scholars

Aja Gaines

Cass Technical High School

Hometown: Detroit

College: Wayne State University

Career Plans: Sports analyst

Parents: Enyka and Rico Gaines 

Achievements: Sports editor, Cass Tech newspaper; apprentice (2018), Detroit Free Press; covered Barak Obama rally; Journalism Institute for Media Diversity, Wayne State University

Jade Rodriguez

University Prep Science and Math High School

Hometown: Detroit

College: Wayne State University

Career Plans: Journalist

Parents: Kathryn and Jay Reed

Achievements: Dean’s List; National Honor Society; Journalism Institute for Media Diversity, Wayne State University

Rosa Parks Scholarship Foundation: Board of Directors

Kim Trent, foundation president; senior vice president, corporate and civic engagement, Compass Strategies, Rosa Parks Scholarship Foundation scholar

James Rosenfeld, foundation vice president; shareholder, Butzel Long

Marcia Hart, foundation secretary; retired, Detroit Media Partnership

Danielle McGuire, foundation assistant secretary; associate professor of history, Wayne State University

Terri Barnett Coleman, foundation treasurer; retired, North America Product Development, General Motors Corp.

Luther Keith, foundation assistant treasurer; executive director, ARISE Detroit! and former senior editor, The Detroit News

Dorothy Cocroft, retired, labor relations, General Motors Corp.

Delora Hall Tyler, foundation past president; president, First Media Group, Inc.

Jonathan Hart, senior loan officer, Regent Financial

Isaiah McKinnon, associate professor, University of Detroit Mercy

Walter Middlebrook, former assistant managing editor, The Detroit News

Gary Miles, editor and publisher, The Detroit News

Alicia Nails, director, Journalism Institute for Media Diversity, Wayne State University

Carey Osmundson, communication senior manager, UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust

Barbara K. Smith, Ph.D., director, Office of Guidance and Counseling, Detroit Public Schools Community District

How to apply for the scholarship

Michigan high school seniors are encouraged to apply for a one-time $2,000 scholarship named in honor of civil rights heroine Rosa Parks. Applications must be postmarked by March 1, 2020. Information can be found at rosaparksscholarship.org.

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