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Student Spotlight: Melvin Cooper

Congratulations to Melvin Cooper, who has completed his program at Siena and will graduate to a GED program at St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center!

“The more people kept trying to make me give up, the more I kept trying to push on,” Melvin said.

Melvin enrolled at Siena in May through Skills for Life, a Detroit at Work program. Skills for Life students are paid to work for the city of Detroit three days a week and attend academic programming two days a week. Siena currently has seven other students enrolled through the Skills for Life program.

Melvin’s goal at Siena was to improve his test scores so he could enter a heavy machinery training program, but while at Siena, he decided to pursue his GED, a dream he always had in the back of his head.

As he continues to study, he’ll still work three days a week for the city of De-troit, trimming trees with others in the Skills for Life program. His work crew has become a very supportive part of the program for him, as he sees other co-workers graduate the program or move on to higher-paying jobs. “We’re like brothers and sisters and cousins,” he said.

Not everything about the program has been easy. While a classmate gives Melvin a ride to Siena, he wakes up at 4 am to take the bus to be at his job site on time at 7.

Melvin was surprised to complete the program at Siena as quickly as he did, and excited to tell his mom and dad. “It’ll be a big thing to show them, as well as my nieces and nephews and my sisters,” he said.

Melvin said he will miss his time working at Siena and hopes that others take advantage of the program. “I would suggest doing it and don’t give up,” he said. “You’re going to have a lot of negativity in your ears telling you not to do it. But keep one thing in mind, staying here is going to get you there.”

The City of Detroit provides Detroit residents with a job today, a career tomorrow, and Skills for Life. To learn more, visit

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