The University of Michigan officially launched its Wolverine Pathways program with a kickoff event at the Michigan Union on Feb. 27, welcoming nearly 200 students from the Ypsilanti and Southfield school districts and close to 300 parents.

Oluwasemiloore Oyekanmi, (second from right) a seventh-grader from Thompson K-8 International Academy in Southfield, listens with her mother, Adenike Ijiwoye. (Photo by Austin Thomason, Michigan Photography)

The kickoff event gave students, parents, educators and program facilitators the opportunity to discuss the program’s curriculum and served as an initial icebreaker for those involved in the program.

Initially announced by President Mark Schlissel at the Leadership Breakfast on Oct. 23, 2015, Wolverine Pathways is a supplemental educational program for students who live within the boundaries of Ypsilanti and Southfield school districts. Students do not need to be students in the Ypsilanti or Southfield public schools.

The program is offered at no cost to students and families, and each student who successfully completes the Wolverine Pathways program and is admitted to U-M will be awarded a full-tuition scholarship for four years.

“This is something that is going to be a part of the University of Michigan for the foreseeable future and that is based off of communications from President Mark Schlissel and Provost Martha Pollack. That’s where this program emanated and that’s where funding comes from,” said Rob Jagers, associate professor and leader of the Wolverine Pathways program.

“There’s a clear investment across the campus in terms of us being able to call on various units to partner and utilize different resources for this program. So this is part of a diversity platform and our mandate is to translate this involvement into a more diverse campus.”

Saturday’s kickoff event divided students and parents into small groups for workshops which include sessions on curriculum, community building, social justice and other topics that helped prepare them for the start of the Saturday winter sessions beginning on March 5.

The year-round program will host eight-week sessions during the fall, six-week sessions during the winter and four-to-six-week sessions in the summer. The initial classes include groups of seventh-graders and high school sophomores in each community. The program will grow each year to encompass students in grades seven through 12.

In Ypsilanti, the program will be housed at New Tech High School, 2100 Ellsworth Road. In Southfield, students will meet at Birney K-8 School, 27225 Evergreen Road.

Mikel Caris Vaughan-Coston smiles during an icebreaker at the gathering. (Photo by Austin Thomason)

Dana Davidson, the academic and program officer of Wolverine Pathways, said Saturday’s turnout and the level of excitement heading into the winter session is a testament to the hard work that’s been done on the back end to bring the program to life.

“Parents and students have been amazingly interested and engaged and supportive. It feels good to have this finally happening and seeing this program moving along. We’re super excited about the start of the winter session on Saturday, March 5,” she said.

“As one example of the curriculum, the students will take computer coding classes in order to introduce them at an early level as to how coding works. The students aren’t just learning a skill, but they’re learning to think about that skill in the context of themselves and society, so that makes it bigger.”

Wolverine Pathways features hands-on and project-based learning activities that extend and integrate core English-language arts, math and science content. In addition to the classroom curriculum offered in the fall and winter sessions, the summer session learning modules will include alternative learning opportunities such as field trips, campus visits and internship opportunities.

Wolverine Scholars are selected through an application process. Applicants need to have a 3.0 or higher grade-point average, participate in extracurricular activities, be involved in community service and plan to attend college. Parents also are required to participate in the program.

“What we’re looking forward to is using people from the University of Michigan community to teach, connect and mentor the young people as the program moves forward. The president and provost are saying they want this program to be successful and that they want to become a more diverse campus,” Davidson said.

“I think the goal is to create a rich campus where there are more people at the table sharing ideas. We have to move away from a place where there are always the same voices and many leaders on campus here know that.”

Entertainment at the kickoff event included CityWide Poets, a spoken-word performance group from Detroit, and the drum line from the Burton International Academy Community in Detroit.

Additional details on the program are available at