Deidre Mitchell is excited about being a student at the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor. She moved into her apartment in mid-May, did some sightseeing, and so far it's the campus that she loves most, she said.
“The architecture is like, I fan-girl over,” Mitchell said with a smile. “Love the cobblestone, so like homey-feeling and just the University of Michigan in general. I’m so excited to get into research. I’m going to be that annoying kid that bugs their professor.”
Mitchell moved to the university in May to begin a summer program studying biology, a subject she excelled in at Grand Rapids Community College.
However, as soon as the fall semester begins, she’ll officially become a junior, and she’ll be pursuing her bachelor’s degree debt free.
“I just kind of like floated throughout high school, and in college I kind of stayed to myself, doing my own thing. So, I just knew it was the path I was going to take,” said Mitchell, who was a member of the GRCC Honors Program. “But, I didn’t think that like I was going to have $40,000 to go along with it, which is amazing.”
Mitchell and another GRCC student and 72 others were named recipients of the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship for community college transfer students. They were selected from a pool of 406 semifinalists and 1,500 applicants overall.
Mitchell said she'll never forget how she found out.
“I was sitting in my kitchen doing homework and I get a call. It’s like 7 o’clock and it says 'GRCC' and I’m like, ‘Why is GRCC calling me?,’” Mitchell recalled. “It’s Dr. Bill Pink and he’s like, 'I just wanted to congratulate you. You and another student won the scholarship. That’s really big. You should be really proud of yourself,’ and I just screamed.”
Mitchell immediately told her dad, who was nearby. She then got another phone call from her TRIO adviser Anna Maria Clark.
“I was so, so excited. The first thing that I did, it was innate, I just called and we yelled and screamed. I cried,” Clark said while laughing. “It’s the only way to react.”
Clark said they both cried. It was an opportunity that Mitchell almost passed up until Clark encouraged her to pursue it. She believed Mitchell had so much to offer.
“Deidre is just as curious and engaged as anyone I’ve ever met. She took this into her own to become a participant. She’s been involved and engaged in so much research, active research here at GRCC, volunteering and working,” Clark said. “She’s been a student working. At some point she had three jobs. So, it didn’t take much for her to be truly engaged in this process.”
Mitchell said one of the main reasons she applied was for her four younger brothers and sisters, whom she likes to set an example for. She wrote about them in her essay.
“I answered it in the aspect of, like, what was my purpose in life. And, it was service to my community, especially my younger siblings. I try to be a role model for them,” Mitchell said. “I was aware that the main reason for this foundation was to build that sense of community, and I just made sure to express my love for community.”
Now, she’s ready to begin at Michigan. Even though Mitchell’s grateful for the scholarship, she’s even more appreciative that she made the decision to apply, she said.
Mitchell hopes her story inspires others to do so as well.
“You can’t win money if you don’t apply for it. Just put your name in that pool,” Mitchell said. “There’s always a chance, and I think we tend to be a lot harder on ourselves than is necessary. So, in your eyes you might not be that great, but in everybody else’s eyes, you’re shining.”