For First Build Albion Fellows, a Learning-Filled First Year

May 18, 2016

A group of five students standing in a row.

The inaugural class of Build Albion Fellows includes (from left) Khaliah Roberts, MarKeese Boyd, Cortazia Wilson, Robert Hays and Dominique Givens.

By Chuck Carlson

The first year is over and the six members of Albion College’s inaugural Build Albion Fellows group is a lot smarter – about many different things.

“What surprised me was the workload,” said Khaliah Roberts, ’19, who is majoring in women’s and gender studies.

“I made a lot of good connections, said Dominique Givens, ’19, who is looking toward a major in sociology. “I didn’t think I’d make a lot of friends, but I have.”

“Nothing is given to you,  said Cortazia Wilson, ’19, also looking toward a major in sociology. “Everything is offered to you but nothing is given to you. Sometimes you have to go through the bad to get to the good.”

“I was surprised at how much help was available,” said Robert Hays, ’19, another potential sociology major. “You don’t even know it.”

“It was like freshman year in high school all over again,” said MarKeese Boyd, ’19, looking at a major in exercise science. “You find you’re over your head for a while.”

Call it the first, and perhaps most crucial, step in a college education, and these members of the first Build Albion Fellows class may understand that better than most.

Build Albion Fellows was unveiled in November 2014 with the goal of providing local students interested in pursuing a liberal arts education the opportunity at Albion College. These first Fellows were introduced in April 2015.

Eligible students need at least three years in Albion Public Schools (preferably grades 6-8), live within the Albion Public Schools district and, after being admitted to Albion College, demonstrate high financial need based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Students accepted into the program receive four-year tuition, room and board from the College. In return the Fellows engage in service projects that will help the community and become increasingly tied to the Fellow’s career interests.

Roberts, Boyd, Wilson, Givens and Hays celebrated the completion of their first year in the program in April – and welcomed the second class starting this fall that included Christopher Bell, Ciera Garza, Marquise Eron Hill, Daryus Mastin, Kaitlyn Porter, O’Shea Swinton, Jontaj Wallace and Marcus Weatherspoon.

A sixth member of the first class, Mercedes Pace, stepped away in the spring semester but is enrolled for the fall. Another student decided Albion wasn’t the right fit for him.

All have come from Albion Public Schools, though the second class will graduate from nearby Marshall High School as part of a cooperative agreement two years ago that closed Albion High School and sent Albion high school students to other schools around the area

But the primary mission of providing a college education for need-based students did not change.

The first class will always have what none of the classes that follow will ever have to deal with – the bit of extra focus that naturally comes with being first.

“I feel like I didn’t want to mess up because all eyes were on me,” Boyd said.

“There’s so much pressure to be good,” Roberts said.

Boyd added with a laugh, “We were almost like to superheroes [to the community].”

Givens saw something even more important.

“This is a chance to bring Albion together and to make Albion proud,” she said.

And that pressure to do well may benefit this group in ways they have yet to imagine, said Madeline Drury, Albion College’s recruitment and community program associate who works closely with the Fellows.

“I think they did really well,” she said. “They’re an impressive group of young people.”

The first class has set the tone for what future classes will be expected to do, including service projects that included cleaning up local parks, helping with recycling efforts, and this summer will work with the Albion City Recreation Department’s Summer Dreams program, an eight-week camp for local kids.

It has been an interesting, challenging, educational first year of college for this group and though each understands there’s still a long road ahead, they also know the first step is always the hardest.

Read more about the 2016 Build Albion Fellows