S.W.A.G. Awards 2017 $10,000 award winner Damon Creighton Jr. with last year’s top winner Jay’la Logan. PHOTO: Carla Jones

The whole purpose of getting an education is to succeed. Nobody goes to school to learn how to be the most spectacular failure they can be.

Trust me on this.

Oh, and you can thank Chemical Bank Board Chairman Gary Torgow for the ‘killa S.W.A.G.’ Torgow coined the humorous term during his remarks in what quickly became one of the favorite terms of the Wednesday evening event.

On Wednesday night at the Charles Wright Museum, the Michigan Chronicle recognized some of metro Detroit’s brightest young lights at the 2017 S.W.A.G. (Students Wired for Achievement and Greatness) Awards. A total of 13 local high school students were awarded checks (courtesy of the Chronicle and our S.W.A.G. partner Chemical Bank) ranging in amount from $1,000 to the top prize of $10,000. Last year’s top prize winner Jay’la Logan was present to offer this year’s awardees the benefit of her experience as a college freshman, as well as to express her gratitude to the Chronicle and Chemical Bank for enabling her to attend college. Although she was determined to go to college one way or another, and no doubt would have made it, the assistance of an unexpected $10,000, plus a summer internship at Chemical Bank made quite a difference.

Michigan Chronicle Publisher and Real Times Media CEO Hiram E. Jackson also offered sound advice and counsel to the awardees.

“This is an investment. We are investing in our community through you. So we’re hoping that once we give you this money, that you will use it wisely, you will go get your degree, or maybe two, you’ll come out and be a productive citizen,” he said.

“And as a productive citizen maybe you’ll go buy a house. Maybe you’ll come out and be a journalist, or a talented videographer. Maybe come work for the Michigan Chronicle. So don’t believe we’re gonna give you this check and it’s the last time we’re going to see you. We’re investing in our community. We’re businesspeople. We don’t give money away. We believe that the stronger Detroit is, the stronger our businesses will be. We’ll be able to hire our own people. And once you become employed you will take care of your families and take care of your neighborhoods. And it will create more opportunity for all of us.”

Keynote speaker Bill Pickard, Chairman and CEO of Global Automotive Alliance and author of the book Millionaire Moves: Seven Proven Principles of Entrepreneurship, similarly instructed them that this was not free money they were receiving, nor should it be treated as such.

“Learn. Earn. And return. Those are the three things that we expect of you,” he said.

“I have a fundamental belief, and this is so critical for some of us who are born in certain zip codes. So critical for some of us who are born of a certain gender, a certain ethnicity. And that belief is this; anybody from anywhere can accomplish anything.

“I beg of you to make good financial decisions, because if you make $1 million a year, and you spend $1 million a year, you are what? Broke.”

But the most moving words of the evening came from this year’s top prize $10,000 award winner, Damon Creighton Jr. An honor roll student from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Wyandotte, Creighton spoke earnestly from his submitted essay about some of the challenges that he has stared down on his way to greater things.

“When I was diagnosed with epilepsy, my life changed forever. Pre-diagnosis, I was a 3.7 GPA student in addition to being a freshman varsity athlete with not a care in the world. Once I got the news, I didn’t exactly know what it meant for my future but I knew I was in for a fight. It didn’t take long for the disorder and several medication changes to take a toll on my body. Sophomore and junior years were worst years of my physical condition. I was having to take excessive breaks from my schooling, and unlike many I hate to miss school. I was making the attempt to keep up with my running and hold my varsity position, but it has consistent clash between my illness and body. My dream of running college track was tarnished, yet I did not give up my dream to attend college. My grades were heavily affected but my study habits did not change. Whenever I could be in school I worked as hard as I could until I could no longer. My teachers and advisors worked with me because they had seen the dedication within myself to not let this hold me back from my success. As I entered senior year my health improved tremendously, which has led me to take advantage of the many opportunities I had missed out on earlier in my high school career. I have had the opportunity to improve my leadership and education by being the Student Council President in addition to attending several leadership conferences. I have learned to never give up, to keep fighting even when it all looks downhill and never lose the underlying strength to conquer on. I hope to be considered for the Michigan Chronicle S.W.A.G scholarship I am leader, devoted student and last but not least a fighter.

“For epilepsy awareness I would bring the socialization of epilepsy as a disease, by that I mean bringing more attention to the degrees and different types of epilepsy. Bringing the attention to epilepsy would suggest to the world that it is not only seen as having seizures and what it means to see as the real definition of what it means to epileptic. In addition to that, to pursue my education further, I want to go into the field of mental health more specifically the medical field of psychiatry. I want to pursue this degree to have the accustom knowledge to be able to give back to those that are epileptic. In a sense of bringing mentoring, therapy and group workshops to help not only epileptic teenagers, but their families as well. Bringing those dealing with having a taunting disease that affects their everyday life and providing those individuals with the mental support that comes with it; that is not as exploited as greatly as already dealing with the physical needs.”

The full list of finalists are as follows:

 

 
Ronnie Alvarez Cass Technical High School
Melody Brooks Cass Technical High School
Damon Creighton, Jr. Theodore Roosevelt High School
Charla Franklin Renaissance High School
Ashleigh Garrison International Academy
Ja’Mya Giles River Rouge High
Bryce Hicks Southfield High School
Asha Hill Renaissance High School
Saika Islam Detroit International Academy
Jazmine Johnson University Prep Science & Math High School
Taylor King Mumford High School
Diego Navarrete Cass Technical High School
Caleb Vasser Detroit Edison Public School Academy Early College of Excellence

 

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