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Detroit — Officials with the nonprofit United Student Aid Funds presented $1.25 million Thursday for a job and leadership training program for Detroit Public Schools students.

Jobs for Michigan's Graduates works to improve graduation and employment rates, according to officials. The Michigan program plans to use the USA Funds contribution to help it grow from helping nearly 800 students this year to nearly 1,600 students next year, said program director Kristin Harrison.

Part of the expansion is bringing services into Detroit, beginning last fall.

"This is the first of many wonderful years to come (in Detroit)," Harrison said.

USA Funds' senior director of metro engagement and relations called the Jobs for American's Graduate program a "success story engine."

"As Detroit retools for the future, it's going to need more ... success stories," Nellons-Paige said, who presented an oversize check to Jobs for Michigan's Graduates at Cody Academy of Public Leadership.

Jobs for America's Graduates is a national organization operating in 1,000 communities in 31 states, according to program vice president Janelle Duray. Jobs for Michigan's Graduates is the state's arm of the program.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan spoke about the need to open up opportunities to disadvantaged students.

"I believe talent is spread evenly across the country and across the world. What's not distributed evenly is opportunity," he said. "You have a whole range of talents. But what happens if those talents don't have the same opportunities to succeed?"

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Jay Williams said job creation doesn't happen through government intervention alone.

"Jobs are created when people come together and make those investments," he said. "Our priority is to make sure those opportunities are geared and open and available to this fine city. And importantly, to citizens of this school system."

Other officials attending the event included Williams and current and former Detroit Public Schools emergency managers Darnell Earley and Jack Martin.

"I'm confident that our students will seize this opportunity and make the most of it," Martin said.

Student Myles Hansborough spoke about his experience with the program.

"I was losing hope," said Hansborough, 19,who enrolled in the program in September. "You just question yourself: Can I make it? And what is it going to take to get there? And if I get there, what if I lose it all?"

Hansborough, a senior at Osborn College Preparatory Academy, said after he has experienced a turnaround thanks to the program.

"This program has given me a lot of hope for the future," he said. "It makes me not want to give up."

hfournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

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