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Tenth-grade student Kaelyn Walker discusses her first year at The School at Marygrove in the Detroit Free Press

August 20, 2020

This article, What my first year at Marygrove's high school meant to me, was orignially published by the Detroit Free Press on August 17, 2020. The author, Kaelyn Walker, is a 10th grade student at The School at Marygrove.The Detroit Public Schools Community District and the U-M School of Education launched the school is 2019. The school's project- and place-based curriculum engages students in community-based and social justice-oriented learning opportunities. 


I chose to attend The School at Marygrove because of its unique social justice pathway, small class sizes and the community feel it offers. As an incoming freshman and a member of the inaugural class at Detroit Public Schools Community District's Marygrove campus, I wasn’t sure what to expect during my first year. 

Kaelyn Walker in front of Marygrove

You feel in awe and so studious when stepping foot on the former Marygrove College campus, nestled in northwest Detroit. The campus, with its stately buildings and generational trees, manifests academic success. 

After spending my first year taking core classes while also learning about community activism, politics and our justice system, our class discussions became more real after the death of George Floyd, while in police custody by officers from the Minneapolis police department.

Upon hearing of the tragic consequences that precipitated his death, my teachers and classmates rallied to be part of the District’s Peace Protest in June. As a person of color, this made me feel important. I’ve never had any teacher sit down and talk to me about things happening outside our school, let alone march next to me. That showed me that I am truly loved and valued by my teachers. They showed me that they cared about more than just my grades.

The teachers at The School at Marygrove go above and beyond for us students and genuinely care, such as my teacher Ms. Jordan. I call her “my mom away from my mom,” because she keeps me on top of my work while encouraging me and keeping my spirits high. The staff also takes time to listen to students’ needs, concerns and interests. You can really tell that the faculty has a genuine interest in the students at heart.

For example, this past school year, we were surprised with a public piano for the school. This was exciting because I don’t have access to one at home and I was able to play daily at school. Not only do they provide us with resources that cater to everyone’s individual interests, but they push us to experience wonderful opportunities that are unique to our school. One of my favorite moments last school year was when we went on a retreat to the University of Michigan. I met all my amazing friends on that one trip. That’s an experience I’ll truly never take for granted. 

What really brought my experience at The School at Marygrove full circle, despite the hardships we faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic at the close of the year, was when one of the teachers nominated me for Student of the Year, for embodying compassion. I was honored to be selected. For a recognition like this, you must really know your students. I’m not alone in saying that every teacher at The School at Marygrove made an effort to know me this year, to understand my strengths and weaknesses and encouraged me to harness my talents.  

The upcoming school year will undoubtedly bring about change during these unprecedented times. However, if there’s one thing I can count on, it’s the familiarity and community that my school wraps us students in, whether we step foot in our building or we’re working online. I am proud to be a student at The School at Marygrove and I am looking forward leaving my mark on my community and the world.

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