When it comes to interacting with people, Tatyana Alves only knows one way to present herself — the positive way.
She offers “great morning” greetings — both verbal and written — as she starts every day. She gives “beautiful day” wishes throughout the day and routinely replies “amazing” whenever she’s asked about her present situation. All are part of the 17-year-old’s signature vibe.
And no one has experienced Alves’ vibe more than her classmates in the first graduating class at The School at Marygrove in Detroit, where she was voted “Most Positive.”
“I just want other people to thrive,” Alves, one of 95 graduating high school seniors at Marygrove, said. “Being positive helped me to find my purpose, and I think I’ve made an influence on a lot of people.”
In 2019, Alves, along with 119 other students and their families, took a chance on a new Detroit entrance-examination school committed to developing “critical thinkers and community-minded citizens who have the skills and knowledge to be makers and leaders in the 21st century.”
Her focus was on social justice and engineering. For Alves, the decision has paid off big time, including more than $1.7 million in scholarship offers for the soon-to-be Eastern Michigan University-bound student.
“Our school isn’t as well known, given that it is new,” said Alves, who looks forward to studying business administration at Eastern Michigan. “I wanted to be challenged and I feel that an application (entrance-examination) school does that. I feel that application high schools are filled with a lot of opportunities.”
She was challenged more than anyone expected when the pandemic hit in 2020 and in-person classes went online instead, for the duration of her sophomore year.
“It was one of the roughest transitions that I’ve ever been through,” said Alves, who found herself not only physically cut off from classmates, but from the “beautiful” Marygrove campus — which was another reason behind her high school choice. “I was in a dark space, but I got out of it.”
She explained that her great escape from a “dark space” entailed applying positivity to goals that became life-changing for her. For example, a promise from her mother that she could get a job if she was able to earn a 4.0 grade-point average for a semester, pushed her to lift her GPA. to a 3.3 from a 2.7 And after Alves victoriously brought home the 4.0, she got a job as a sales associate at a nearby CVS, which also gave her increased confidence and independence.
But, “If I was going to be independent, I had to be fully independent. So, I couldn’t get a job and then ask my mom to drive me to work,” said Alves, who achieved her next goal of getting a driver’s license and was rewarded with a vehicle for her to drive to school and work. “I was in the 11th grade and I was 15-turning-16, and I said this is the time when I need to start turning into a woman.”
She is grateful for teachers who helped her succeed and for friends and classmates who supported her. Alves has listed their names on a certificate that she keeps in a neat, expansive, folder, along with the many scholarship awards she has received.
Alves said her mother, Acquanetta Windham, is who she modeled her positive approach to life after.
“I’m not an optimistic person, I’m a realist. So I don’t know where she got it from,” Windham said. Alves will be the first of her children to attend college. “I’m so proud of her. When she first went to high school, it was kind of rough.”
“But she exceeded all expectations. Even during the loss of my dad and different challenges, she just continued to prosper,” her mother said. “I tell her ‘Don’t let yesterday be your today.’ And I also tell her ‘Don’t let the unnecessary stress overwhelm you.’ Keep your vibe and stay exactly as you are.”
Tatyana Alves’ tips for identifying scholarship dollars
Alves, a member of the first high school graduating class at The School at Marygrove, reported receiving more than $1.7 million in scholarships, after launching her scholarship search in earnest during her 11th grade year.
Here’s the advice the Eastern Michigan University-bound student has for others:
- Stay connected to teachers and adults that have taken an interest in your future: Become acquainted with and exhaust all available resources and assistance provided by your school and school staff, but also make your scholarship search known to adults in your extended family and community network.
- Stay locked into your scholarship search during the entire day, including while participating in student clubs and extracurricular activities: Alves participated in numerous school clubs and community activities as a high school student, including the volunteer club, poetry club, fashion club, InsideOut Citywide Poets, Global G.L.O.W. and assistant girls middle school basketball coach at a local elementary school. Each club and activity provides an opportunity to share information with students and adults who can aid your scholarship search.
- Incorporate screen time into your scholarship search: According to a survey released in 2022 by the nonprofit Common Sense Media, kids and teens in America are spending more time than ever using screens and social media. From 2019 to 2021, on average, daily screen time for teens (ages 13 to 18) increased from seven hours and 22 minutes to eight hours and 39 minutes. Some of those precious hours can be used to find scholarship dollars. For example, one of Alves’ classmates surfing TikTok discovered RaiseMe, a micro-scholarship resource for high school and college students that Alves credits with launching her successful scholarship search.
- “Be present in the moment”: Attitude is everything for Alves, who encourages students to apply positivity and to “be present in the moment” while seeking scholarships to pay for college.
Scott Talley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @STalleyfreep.