For many high school seniors, getting to college is hard. But could you imagine the unexpected twist of your high school closing as you’re entering your senior year?!
Jill Marecki saw it happen to her students.
She was the Alumni Advisor at University YES Academy in Detroit when the public charter school’s management company shut down the high school levels in August of 2016 – just two weeks before the start of her students’ senior year.
“It was heartbreaking to see that we wouldn’t be together with them for their senior year,” said Marecki – who’s known to her students as Miss Belstler – her maiden name.
She went the extra mile to help her students during that trying time.
She created a huge post-it-note grid detailing each student’s journey and then started doing whatever necessary to help them.
“Texting, emailing, calling, taking them to college campuses,” she said.
And that was just the beginning.
“We all had to find a new school…and everybody was at a different school,” explained former student Jada Hall.
“[Miss Belstler] found each person at every school and helped them out with college applications and on-site admissions. And even after high school, she came and she helped with tuition, loans, and books and everything,” Jada added.
Jada is now a freshman at Michigan State University.
Her roommate at MSU is Aleka Simmons -- also a former University YES Academy student.
And Aleka is grateful for the help Marecki has given her, too.
It enabled her to get through some tough times and stay in school.
“She texted me a couple weeks [ago]…just motivational things. I was like, okay, well, I know I’m going to finish. Like, I know I had a rough semester. But this semester is going awesome. I couldn’t get my books, so she helped me pay for them. So, it was like, yeah I can do this,” said Aleka smiling.
There were 60 rising seniors at University YES Academy when it closed.
Marecki still keeps in regular contact with 50 of those students!
She even pays for some of their college expenses out of her own pocket.
“You rarely run into a teacher like that who’s truly dedicated to the kids,” said Toya Robinson – Jada Hall’s mother.
So, what motivates Marecki?
“I believe that college access and college success for all is crucial. It’s a public good -- especially for our students in Detroit. You know? Just to have that opportunity is life-changing,” said Marecki.
Her mission now is to inspire these kids.
“To kind of empower them to take their own initiative and reach their goals. That’s what every educator wants. I think that’s what we all want for our community to succeed,” she explained.
And that’s why Jill “Miss Belstler” Marecki is our Detroit 2020 Person of the Week.