Excellence for Detroit
Excellence for Detroit Incorporated (E4D) is an educational, non-profit organization devoted to the continued success of high school students in the City of Detroit. E4D was founded by a group of young college graduates trained in the liberal arts tradition, a tradition that incorporates a wide range of knowledge, skills, and interests. These individuals came to recognize that the liberal arts not only enriched their college careers, but that it also inspired them with the desire to give something back to society. In reflecting on their own high school experiences, they realized that the liberal arts was only a small part of what they were taught, and that if they had been introduced to it sooner, they would have been much better prepared to enter a college classroom. At its core, the Excellence for Detroit program is designed to help students enter into and excel in a collegiate environment through a rigorous course of liberal arts immersion. However, while college admission is undoubtedly a momentous opportunity that everyone student should have, E4D volunteers also believe that entering college is but the first step in a lifelong journey of learning. Students must also be equipped to make good decisions outside of the classroom as well. The E4D program emphasizes what is commonly known as “college knowledge” to help students make better choices, both in school and in life as a whole.
The Excellence for Detroit program is a 12-week course divided into two 6-week segments. The first six weeks of the program are devoted to E4D’s personalized liberal arts curriculum. Students enter the program by taking a short assessment test to help the instructors gauge the areas in greatest need of attention. From there students are asked to complete a series of exercises that require them to analyze and interpret a wide variety of primary and secondary source materials. These exercises are designed to build upon some of the fundamental skills that are essential for success in college—critical thinking, argumentation, professional writing, and oral presentation. Classroom sessions consisting of lectures, group discussions, and cooperative learning help reinforce the principles learned in these exercises. In an effort to mimic the college classroom as much as possible, greater emphasis is always placed on student interaction to keep them actively engaged and thinking. Special attention is also paid to grammar skills, which are a critical component of effective communication in all walks of life.
Another key aspect of the first six weeks is the “college knowledge” information seminars. During these presentations, students are asked to think about the many facets of college life that exist outside of the classroom. Two of the most common difficulties perspective college students face is deciding on which school is right for them and how they will pay for their education once they are there. College provides students with many other exciting opportunities through athletic teams, social clubs, and internships. E4D helps students to discover what they hope to achieve in college, and points them on the surest path to success. E4D mentors stick with their students even after they have left the program to help guide them and answer any questions they may have on their way through college.
In the second six weeks of the program, students take a more focused approach to college admission. Students may choose one of two options: an ACT prep course or a service project. The ACT prep course option is designed for students who have not yet taken the ACT, or those who wish to improve their existing score. Students refresh their knowledge of the various subjects and learn some test-taking techniques to reduce the anxiety of facing the test. The service project option is designed for students who are satisfied with their ACT score, or for those who wish to push themselves a bit further. Students are given a budget to create or implement something that reflects their interests and, ideally, gives back to their local community. The service project harkens back to the sense of civic responsibility that ultimately breathes life into Excellence for Detroit’s mission.