Warrendale Charter Academy remains a place filled with warm memories, experiences, and lessons that will last a lifetime for Cryserica Jeter. Jeter attended Warrendale from kindergarten through eighth grade and as a recent college graduate, she remains closely connected to her alma mater.
Jeter recently graduated from University of Michigan with a Biomedical Engineering degree and came back to Warrendale to visit before she headed off to Georgia to pursue her new career as a clinical specialist trainee at Abbott, a medical device and healthcare company.
“Warrendale gave me some of my most meaningful childhood experiences and memories,” Jeter shared. “While attending, I was provided the best extracurricular activities and I never found myself feeling uninterested.”
While attending Warrendale, Jeter built strong relationships with teachers, faculty, and administrators that she still stays in close contact with to this day. Ms. Juanamia Kelley, paraprofessional at Warrendale, remembers the first time Cryserica and her mom toured the school and recalls the determination, excitement, and wonder she saw in Cryserica’s eyes even at such a young age.
Relationships were crucial in her upbringing and educational experience. Through participation in activities and being involved, Jeter became accustomed to being in the spotlight and was constantly presented with opportunities to interact with other people, engage in teamwork, and work with other students. “I was consistently making connections and building relationships, whether that was with classmates or faculty and staff,” she said. “As I grew older, I didn’t run into the issue of building relationships because Warrendale taught me how to do that.”
After graduating from Warrendale, Jeter attended Renaissance High School, a Detroit Public Schools Community District Premier Examination High School that offers a strong college-prep curriculum.
While there, she developed a passion for STEM, an academic discipline including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. She immersed herself in STEM activities and programs and was intrigued by what STEM can offer for the world. Her dad was an engineer, but she never fully understood what exactly he did until she was exposed to the field herself.
Meanwhile, Jeter’s mom was a paraprofessional and consistently brought students in from their neighborhood who needed help. Watching her care for people sparked Jeter’s commitment to carrying the same trait.
A key focus for all National Heritage Academies (NHA) schools is developing the whole student, heart and character included. This includes infusing Moral Focus virtues like gratitude, compassion, and perseverance into their education. Jeter has kept these virtues with her always, particularly perseverance. She shared that Ms. Kelley drilled that into her.
“I recall telling Cryserica at her high school graduation that my high school teacher gave me these words of inspiration, ‘If the elevator to success is broken, don't give up on your dreams. You persevere and take the stairs!’ and Cryserica never gave up when faced with challenges,” said Kelley. “While pursuing her college degree, she took the stairs to success and she will continue to take the stairs when needed!”
Jeter had an eye-opening time in college, where she became a student that didn’t care as much, “I had to continue to push forward and I would think back to my childhood and what I learned at Warrendale and what I've seen my mother accomplish.”
She frequently reminds herself that the strongest people have the toughest battles to fight. “My timeline to graduate college was different and I had to stop myself from comparing my journey to someone else's,” Jeter shared.
A few years ago, Jeter spoke to a Warrendale eighth-grade graduating class at their promotion ceremony. Her biggest piece of advice for students is to keep their eyes on the prize. “There will be a lot of distractions that come into your path, but you have to keep your eyes focused on what you want,” said Jeter. “Put yourself first, and not in a selfish way, but in order to protect your physical, mental, and spiritual health. You can’t pour into someone when you're empty.”
Ms. Kelley is extremely proud of Jeter, her accomplishments, and loves to see her continue to visit the school. “It brings me joy when Cryserica comes back to visit and provide inspiration to the students and staff,” shared Kelley. “I've seen her grow from a preschool student to a college graduate pursuing her dream career.”
Reminiscing on her time at Warrendale, Jeter had a handful of favorite memories that stood out. One fond memory was the spirit weeks, where students were called to dress up as celebrities and Jeter dressed up as Mary J. Blige. Another day called for students to deck themselves out in 70’s attire and apparel.
Another memory that stands out is the year Warrendale hosted “Warrendale Idol,” based on the singing competition American Idol. Jeter shared, “I wasn’t the best singer, but I developed the confidence to get on stage and perform ‘So What’ by P!nk with a Wii guitar in hand and a silver platinum jacket on. It was so fun!”
When asked why it’s important for her to remain connected to Warrendale, Jeter shared that it’s important to not forget where she came from no matter how far she goes. “A lot of my childhood was at Warrendale. A lot of my time was spent there, and I learned and grew so much,” she said. “I believe I owe it to the people that still work there, for example, Dr. Glass and Ms. Kelley. Seeing them and remembering how much they poured into me. The least I can do is go back and check in on them and see how the school is going.”
In her final thoughts, Jeter expressed how lucky she was to have the experience she did at Warrendale. “A handful of my friends didn’t attend Warrendale and when we talk about childhood experiences and elementary and middle school, no one's experiences compare to mine,” said Jeter. “The teachers and staff love and care about their students so much and I wouldn't trade that experience for anything, any experience, or any other school.”
Good luck on your next adventure at Abbott, Cryserica!