Two future Wolverines decided to skip attending a Headstart program and advance straight to college at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
In early June, my niece Malaya, and my good friend Veronica’s niece, Ryleigh, met for the first time on UM-D’s campus. Veronica (Ronnie) and I had been arranging the perfect time for our almost-one-month-apart nieces (Malaya was born May 19, 2016 and Ryleigh was born June 22, 2016) to meet. Campus was the perfect setting. Our nieces enjoyed meeting professionals in the administration building, me and Veronica’s academic advisor- Traci Ballard, and had lunch in the bustling University Center during a large Welcome Event in progress for new students.
Another highlight was taking Malaya and Ryleigh to CASL and letting them sit in the lecture hall where Veronica and I had our Journalism classes and Psychology classes.
Of course, these young minds had no idea they were on a college campus, or meeting major stakeholders on campus, or that they were being groomed to follow in their auntie’s footsteps. I will share those things with Malaya later, and I’m sure Ronnie will do the same with Ryleigh.
What is important is that we exposed them to opportunity and the importance of learning, even at a young age. Opportunity and being a Lifelong Learner is what UM-D represents for myself and I can confidently say it represents the same for Ronnie too.
Alumni typically keep in mind college memories, and are encouraged to give back to their alma mater. However, part of giving back includes investing in future generations, especially your own family members.
In due time, Malaya and Ryleigh will grow up and realize they are two beautiful African American women. Perhaps they won’t have to contend with various social, or racial issues that are present now. Maybe they will or won’t be interested in the stories Ronnie and I can share from our days as students at Michigan. Whatever the case, Veronica and I have given them a foundation, and maybe years from now our nieces will agree that blue is the best color to bleed.
Written By Leah T. Johnson
Leah and Veronica are CASL ’11 graduates with degrees in Communication.