Exploring the dreamy, Hogwarts-like Cranbrook Schools campus, it’s easy to get lost in admiring the beautiful buildings designed by the renowned architect Eliel Saarinen. What makes the place extraordinarily special are the secret trails, tunnels, and gardens found throughout its 319 acres.
But beyond the beautiful grounds and reputation as an excellent college preparatory high school, few people realize one of Cranbrook’s biggest missions is to instill students with a strong sense of personal and social responsibility, and the competence to communicate and contribute in a global community.
Horizons-Upward Bound (HUB) is a perfect example. For 50 years, Cranbrook has offered opportunities to students from some of the lowest performing Detroit middle schools through one of the largest and most successful among some 800 Upward Bound programs in the U.S. HUB recruits from the lowest performing middle schools. Most of the students start ninth grade in Detroit Public Schools’ Southeastern, Pershing, and Western high schools. HUB does not replace their public school experience; it supplements it with two phases over a four-year period.
“I wish more people would come out here and see what Cranbrook has done for low-income kids,” says HUB Director Dr. Darryl Taylor. The 1970 HUB graduate speaks from experience.
“I was at my middle school in the Jefferson Projects and approached by my gym teacher who said, ‘Darryl, I want you to be a part of this program,’ ” Taylor says. “I toured campus and was amazed at the facilities, naturally, but more importantly, I had never been around a group of people who believed in you so much, that whatever it took to try and make you a better person, they were willing to do.”
He went on to graduate from the University of Michigan, then had a distinguished military career, including 30 years in the U.S. Navy as well as time as a dental officer in the Marine Corps.
Today, up to 300 students are interviewed and 45 are selected each year. Low-income, potential first-generation college students are ideal candidates, and many come from single-parent homes.
“Middle school counselors give us recommendations, but we insist on having a presentation to any and every kid that’s interested,” Taylor says. “We try and get those kids that are considered diamonds in the rough.”
HUB students live on campus for two weekends of the six-week summer course. Cranbrook buses provide transportation to and from Detroit. An intense structured school day from 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. is followed by scheduled activities and study hall until 10:30 p.m.
The winter phase meets on selected Saturdays during the academic year, and Cranbrook students volunteer to help tutor.
Along with small class sizes, there’s a heavy emphasis placed on reading. But just like a normal day at school, math, language, chemistry, and all core academic classes are taught.
“We give our kids what they don’t get in public schools, and it’s all geared towards Cranbrook’s philosophy of expanding their minds,” Taylor says, adding that it includes mandatory swimming classes, tai chi to help with stress and anxiety, a Toastmasters class to learn public speaking, and more.
Taylor also started a community garden four years ago. Students are responsible for maintaining the garden and all of the produce is donated.
“It’s a simple concept. We want our kids to know that even when you think you have less, someone always has it worse off than you,” Taylor says.
Half of the 35 faculty members running HUB are teaching or retired public school teachers, and half are teachers from Cranbrook — many work for free.
Brenda Gatlin, the academic dean of students, is a prime example. Although she planned on retiring in 2009 after spending 43 years as a principal and teacher in the Detroit Public Schools system, once she witnessed the program firsthand, she’s been with HUB ever since.
“Where we come from is not a big thing. If there is a will there is a way, and [students] are focused on one thing and one thing only: Their goal is to get into a college or university of their choice, and hopefully debt free,” Gatlin says.
Alumni have gone on to Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Wayne State University, Harvard, Cornell, John Hopkins, MIT, and more.
Alyssia Adams, a 2014 HUB graduate who graduated from Detroit’s Renaissance High, received a full ride to attend Denison University in Ohio (her first choice). She fought back tears when asked about HUB.
“HUB is my family, and I’m so grateful for this experience,” Adams says. “I’m the first one of my parents’ children to attend college.”
Horizons-Upward Bound reapplies for a federal grant in 2017, but relies on donations. They’re planning a 50th Anniversary Gala on Nov. 14. For information, call 248-645-3137. To donate to the HUB endowment fund, visit schools.cranbrook.edu/hub.