Meet Jaylen Collier, a member of Cesar Chavez Academy High School's graduating Class of 2015 who has been accepted to West Point Military Academy. The positive impact that Jaylen's mom, Larlita Collier, had on his academic successes from elementary school through high school cannot be understated.
Collier was in English class when his mother began texting him. "There was an image attached to the text... the letter that said congratulations on being accepted into West Point Military Academy. I was really excited." Messages of congratulations flowed in from others as well, including Collier's aunts and uncles.
West Point Military Academy has been Collier's first choice for college since the 8th grade.
"I always knew I wanted to go into the military ... me and my mom made a deal. She said that if I went to college first, then she would support me going into the military afterwards. I knew this was going to be my best option." He plans to transfer to the United States Marine Corps following graduation from West Point.
As a senior, he enrolled at Cesar Chavez Academy High School. Collier was interested in taking Advanced Placement classes to strengthen his resume for West Point, and he says the the AP classes and the school's hours were his two main reasons for enrolling at Cesar Chavez Academy. He is currently taking AP Calculus and AP Physics classes to help him prepare for his college major, nuclear engineering.
Jaylen Collier has attended Michigan public school academies since first grade. His mother Larlita Collier, who is a small-business owner, drove him to and from school daily. Based on his NWEA scores, Collier was placed in higher level courses. He carried a 3.5 GPA in middle school, his mother constantly monitoring his education. In 8th grade, with help and guidance from his academy principal and teachers, Collier started applying to high schools.
Accepted to many of the state's top schools, Collier and his mom selected International Academy, a free charter high school in Troy.
"You had to take an entry test. Then, if your test scores were good, they put you in a lottery. It was an eye-opener for me. There was a lot of ethnic diversity. I learned a lot about different cultures."
Collier struggled at the Troy school, and found that once he had fallen behind in a class it was too difficult to get caught up. The daily commute was also very challenging. "I couldn't participate in extra-curricular activities because of my mom's work schedule," he explained. Collier transferred to Cristo Rey High School for his sophomore and junior years.
"I have a decent workload. It's pretty challenging too. I thought it was going to be a lot easier but it's not. I could have chosen elective classes but I wanted to take core classes to keep me motivated. Mr. Prong is pretty awesome - He breaks things down to help you understand and he doesn't let up on the workload either. Ms. Snickenberger is also in the class helping me and other students - She and Mr. Prong work together hand-in-hand with us."
"AP Physics is way harder than I thought it was going to be. This is my first physics class - I just jumped in but Mr. Clifford stays after school to help us and he pushes us."
Collier formally applied to West Point as a junior. "The application process involved recommendation letters from local U.S. Senators and government officials. I had to research who our Senator's are. My teachers are writing letters; I am receiving a Presidential recommendation because my father retired from the military. I also have pending letters of recommendation that I hope to receive soon."
Collier's family is excited and happy for him. His mom will be accompanying him to New York for a school visit, where he will spend a day with a cadet and experience the daily routine. West Point is a 4-year education program followed by a 4-5 year military commitment.
School leader Juan Martinez has said he plans to call Mr. Ferrerio (Detroit Merit Academy) and Ms. Rowe (Cristo Rey HS) because the schools deserve a lot of credit for guiding and educating Collier; he will also call Collier's mom "and congratulate her for doing such an awesome job of raising you."
"A huge congratulations to you, your mom, and your family on your acceptance into West Point. Obviously, we are very, very, very proud of you. Now, we get to buy and hang the West Point Military Academy flag from our ceiling in the cafeteria."