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College and Career Pathways, K-12 Education

Stanford grad thankful for Detroit supporters

Jessica Reed

Jessica Reed

Almost a year ago, a dream that once felt intangible transformed into my reality. Last June, I graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in African and African American Studies and a minor in Creative Writing. As I celebrated this accomplishment during Black Graduation, my major’s ceremony, and Stanford’s commencement event, I also reflected on the immensely maturing journey of college and the collective support that sustained me in the process.

While a student at Stanford, I further explored the multifaceted history of diasporic Blackness, studied abroad in South Africa, took on various leadership roles, and cemented empowering relationships with friends, faculty and mentors.

Although college was a time of abundant opportunity, I often struggled to overcome fears of inadequacy.

During these uncertain moments, I remembered the city that helped cultivate my aspirations. I was reminded of my hometown full of beating hearts, creative minds and resilient communities. Whenever I experienced an obstacle in or out of the classroom, it was affirming to remember my supporters back home.

The Coleman A. Young Foundation (CAYF) is one such supporter that ensured my success at Stanford. This scholarship — funded by the Skillman Foundation — helped alleviate financial pressures by allowing me to purchase books and a host of other necessities. Most importantly, they believed in me so much that they chose to invest in my future. 

I am beyond grateful for CAYF and its committed staff, including Program Manager Kenequia Parker, who has remained a tremendous source of guidance.

After graduating, I returned home to Detroit to work as an academic coordinator at Racquet Up Detroit, which is an out-of-school youth development program based in Northwest Activities Center. It is my goal to inspire students to believe in themselves, and build together toward their dreams. As I continue in this full-circle experience, I am motivated by CAYF and the countless change-makers who are striving to positively impact the lives of young people throughout the city.

This is the counter-narrative that glimmers with hope.


Jessica Reed is one of 86 Detroiters that have received a Skillman Legacy Scholarship.

In 2011, the Foundation celebrated its 50 years of service to metro Detroit children by funding 50 scholarships through the Coleman A Young Foundation (CAYF) Scholarship program. Since then, the Foundation has supported from 6-10 scholarships per year, focusing on students from the Skillman Good Neighborhoods.

“The scholarship is really important because we not only support students on a financial level, but a personal level,” said Kenequia Parker, program manager for the Coleman A. Young Foundation, who was herself a recipient of a CAYF scholarship.

“A lot of students that go off to school, they don’t have support of their family. Sometimes they just need someone to talk to,” she shared. “When we can’t meet in person, we video chat. They know they can call me anytime – and they do.”


skillman scholars 2016 b

CAYF Scholars

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