Dear World: Smart Kids Live in Detroit…Just So You Know

Get this: There are Detroit Public Schools students with grade points of 3.5 and above. Actually, there are exactly 308 of them.

Last night, The Detroit Public Schools Foundation honored said smart kids during its annual DPS Excellence Awards Banquet. Its purpose is to recognize the high-school graduates that achieve this impressive task. They filled Cobo Arena with their brain power.

Take that, those who believe Detroit schools – or Detroit itself – cannot produce people of value, valor and valedictorian-ness. (Yep, I made up that last word. You see, I was not my school’s valedictorian. But I digress.)

Some background: Thursday’s event was the first time DPSF has been involved in supporting this event and giving out scholarships to students.  The Detroit Public Schools Foundation is a non-profit group dedicated to supporting Detroit students. Its mission is to raise, manage and steward funds and other resources to support value-added programs and activities for the benefit of the Detroit Public Schools and its students.

“It is crucial that we recognize scholastic excellence as a key part of motivating our students to strive to be the best they can be,” said DPSF President & CEO Chacona Johnson. “This ties into everything that the Foundation is trying to do, from our pre-school ‘Grow Up Great’ program in partnership with PNC Bank to funding we direct towards essential arts, music, science, math and technology curricula.”

I spoke with Ifham Ahmed, an 18-year-old recent graduate of Cass Tech High School. So recent, he noted, that his voice was still hoarse from yelling during his graduation ceremony on Wednesday. Ahmed, in fact, had a 4.0 grade point and was one of four valedictorians from his high school. Yes, you read that right – four.

He really is a normal kid. He lives in Detroit with a mom, dad and brother (who is a recent graduate of Wayne State University with an accounting degree). He likes the Detroit Pistons and LeBron James. He’s into “South Park,” the Harry Potter books and Little Wayne. He kinda likes Selena Gomez. He plays Angry Birds.

How in the world did he end up getting those amazing grades? Let the quizzing begin.

So you stayed home all the time and studied? “No, I lived a full life. I had fun all the time,” Ahmed told me.

You clearly were chained in your room for the past four years of high school? “I had a lot of support from my parents and my older brother,” Ahmed said. “They emphasized education all the time. I know how important it is.”

Tell me what out-of-state college you plan to attend, then, smart guy. “I’ll be going to the University of Michigan this fall. I plan to major in premed and stay in Michigan my whole life,” he added.

Um, are you sure about that last statement…You plan on living here your whole life? Didn’t you get the Brain Drain memo? You’re supposed to move away. Go West, young man. Or something like that.

“No, I love this place. There’s four seasons. The people are nice,” Ahmed said. (Clearly, he hasn’t met that many reporters.)

Any advice for future graduates? Run away? Hide? “Just try to do your best. Because at the end of the day, if you don’t try your best, you’re just not happy,” he said.

Ahem. There you have it. A nice young man will be going to university here, living here, working here and more here. I tried my best to scare him away. But he’s just too smart for that.

I know not every Detroit school has an Ifham in every classroom. I know the struggles are huge, the mountains are high, the challenges deep. This is a blog, not an essay on how to solve one or any problem. Really, it’s just a few words to remind us all that Ifham does exist. There are really good kids in this city and in Michigan. And they deserve the recognition of their peers, their parents, their city and their state. So, kudos, young man. Kudos, all 2011 graduates. Make us proud. And wear sunscreen.

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