‘Powerful Possibilities’: 2024 Michigan Chronicle/Huntington Bank S.W.A.G. Award Recap

Photo credits: Monica Morgan photography

“Hey Black Child
Do you know who you are
Who you really are
Do you know you can be
What you want to be
If you try to be
What you can be” – Useni Eugene Perkins

Here in a world where dreams often collide with harsh realities, the beauty of graduating high school becomes a profound testament to resilience, especially for young Black graduates navigating through seemingly insurmountable adversities. The triumph of these students isn’t merely about walking across the stage to receive a diploma—it’s about overcoming systemic barriers, societal doubts, and personal struggles to step into a brighter future.

As Dr. Seuss eloquently put it, “Oh the places you’ll go. You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.” These words resonate deeply, capturing the essence of the journey for many young Black graduates who must balance hope with hardship, ambition with adversity.

The Michigan Chronicle, in partnership with Huntington Bank, recently celebrated the 9th annual S.W.A.G. (Students Wired for Achievement and Greatness) scholarship award event on Sunday June 9, 2024. This initiative, which recognizes and supports students with powerful stories and challenging backgrounds, is a beacon of hope for those who often feel overlooked by society. Hundreds of applicants vied for the scholarship, but only 15 outstanding students were selected. These distinguished awardees have excelled academically and uplifted their communities, shaping futures and igniting change. Their exceptional achievements in STEM, arts, and vital contributions to social justice reflect their unwavering dedication, a testament to their passion and resilience.

“I have the good fortune of being able to travel the country and being amongst community leaders and business leaders but this, this never gets old,” shared Hiram E. Jackson, publisher of the Michigan Chronicle and CEO of Real Times Media. “Meeting the future and being inspired by them is just an amazing blessing and I want to thank these young adults for touching me in a very special way.”

Each student’s story is unique, weaving a rich tapestry of perseverance, innovation, and empowerment. These educators and students are not only dreamers and doers; they are the heartbeat of Detroit’s educational landscape, inspiring us all to reach higher and dream bigger. Since its inception, the SWAG program has invested almost $2 million in these promising young leaders. This year, 15 young adults and five administrators received a total of $100,000 in scholarships. The top award of $25,000 went to Ms. Erin King, a recent graduate of Detroit School of Arts who will be attending Central State University in the fall.

Photo: Erin King gives acceptance speech at S.W.A.G. 2024

Photo: Erin King gives acceptance speech at S.W.A.G. 2024 pictured with Gary Torgow, Huntington Bank chairman, Hiram E. Jackson, Michigan Chronicle Publisher, CEO Real Times Media.

“Thank you so much, I am so appreciative,” expressed King with tears in her eyes. “Today is my moms birthday. She couldn’t be here with us but I just know that this is nothing but God and nothing but her. I am so grateful for having an opportunity like this. Thank you so much for believing in me and giving me a push forward toward my future. I know if my mama was here she would be just as appreciative and giving each of you all a big hug. I promise this will not be taken for granted. Thank you.”

Photo: (L to R) Gary Gary Torgow, Huntington Bank chairman, Tanisha Leonard, Real Times Media, Erin King, S.W.A.G. 2024 top winner, Kamilia Landrum, Executive Director, NAACP, Hiram E. Jackson, Michigan Chronicle Publisher, CEO Real Times Media.

King’s story is particularly poignant. Her dreams of Broadway are steeped in a deeper reality; just last year, she lost her mother. The award ceremony fell on her mother’s birthday, adding an emotional weight to her achievement. King’s tears were shared by many in the room, as each student’s name was called and applause followed, creating an evening filled with honor and pride. Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony delivered an inspiring speech, reminding the scholars that anything is possible if they open their minds to the possibilities. His words were enriching and deeply touching, a message of hope and determination.

“There was a college professor years ago who walked into his classroom and took out a white piece of paper and he drew a black dot on it,” Rev. Dr. Anthony shared. “He went among his students and he asked each student what do you see on this paper? One student said, ‘I see a white piece of paper with a dot on it.’ Another said, ‘I see a white piece of paper.’ Another student said, ‘I don’t see anything but what you’re holding in your hand.’ Another just put his head down because he didn’t want to say anything. But then he asked one other student, ‘what do you see?’ That student said, ‘I see a piece of paper with a black dot on it that I can take and make into an airplane. I see a piece a paper that I can write a love letter on. I see a piece of paper that I can write a story on. I see a piece of paper that I can draw a rainbow on.’ The professor was impressed. In other words, you like I see, powerful possibilities. I see you connecting the dots. I see you making rainbows of history. You, are the powerful possibilities. As a man or a woman thinkeths, so shall it be.”

Gary Torgow, Huntington Bank chairman, introduced Rev. Dr. Anthony with a heartfelt tribute. Torgow shared a personal anecdote, gifting Rev. Dr. Anthony the very cufflinks President Joe Biden had given to him. “I recently had the privilege to be invited to the White house,” said Torgow. “And I had a quick minute to meet the President of the United States, President Joe Biden. When I was leaving the White House, he gave me a gift. He handed me his personal cufflinks that were on his shirt. He told his assistant to wrap them up in a box and he gave them to me. They are a treasure, an honorable gift that I will treasure for the rest of my life. And I couldn’t think of a better person to give that gift to than to my brother and friend who’s here year after year everyday.” This gesture of admiration underscored the evening’s theme of legacy, mentorship, and the passing of wisdom from one generation to the next.

Jackson, holds the S.W.A.G. event close to his heart. Despite the numerous events hosted by Real Times and the Michigan Chronicle each year, this scholarship event is particularly special. It is a day that tugs at the heartstrings, highlighting the significance of education in Black and brown communities. In addition to the students, five educators were honored with the Influential Educator Award, acknowledging their vital role in nurturing and guiding these young minds.

“There’s something funny about life,” shared Jackson. “As an adult, you want to educate your young people, you want to empower them with knowledge, you want to share with them all of the things that you’ve done in your life but what frequently happens is that you learn more from them than you could ever teach them. Each time we’ve done this event and this is our ninth year, I have had life changing conversations with these kids and no matter where we cross paths, we will always remember this day together. Again, congratulations to all of you.”

Education is indeed vital, especially in communities that have historically been marginalized. Here in Detroit, the S.W.A.G. scholarship event is more than just a celebration of academic achievement; it is a testament to the strength and resilience of a community that continues to rise despite the odds. Sunday was a day of proud tears, a day that these scholars will forever hold near and dear.

Photo: S.W.A.G. 2024 Scholars 

The journey of these young graduates is emblematic of a larger narrative. It speaks to the power of perseverance and the importance of support systems that recognize and nurture talent, regardless of the obstacles faced. Their stories are a reminder that while the path to success may be fraught with challenges, the determination to succeed can lead to remarkable achievements. These students are not just the future leaders of our country; they are the embodiment of hope and the promise of a better tomorrow.

As we celebrate their accomplishments, let us also reflect on the collective responsibility we share in ensuring that every child, regardless of background, has the opportunity to step with care and great tact into a world full of possibilities. The S.W.A.G. scholarship is a shining example of what can be achieved when we invest in our youth, believing in their potential to transform our communities and, indeed, the world.

About Post Author

From the Web

Skip to content