Her answer? Get outside of her comfort zone. Ali did so by volunteering for everything.
“I said yes to things that I normally wouldn't,” Ali said. “If people needed a volunteer for anything, I said, ‘I'll do it’ and just doing those types of things to get out of my comfort zone.”
Another inspiration for Ali was one of her English teachers, Sarah Hogan, who taught English when Arbor Prep was online and helped as a college advisor in-person when Ali was taking dual-enrollment English courses.
Ironically, Ali found inspiration from Hogan’s online courses and used that when Arbor Prep, which outperforms the local district in all subjects, went back in-person.
“(Miss Hogan) tried to make online learning as normal as possible,” Ali said. “She had us have our cameras on and talk with our other peers. She's just such a fun-loving person that it made me feel like I needed to get out of my comfort zone and actually grow as a person.”
Ali grew out of her comfort zone and decided to apply for her dream school, the University of Michigan. Her grandfather worked on the campus in Ann Arbor in the maintenance department, so Ali spent plenty of time on Michigan’s campus as a child. She thought she had no chance of getting in, but another teacher at Arbor Prep convinced her to apply.
A few days after applying, Ali learned of her acceptance to the school while visiting her grandparents’ home. Although her grandfather passed away in 2015, Ali felt like he was there with her.
“I just started sobbing since I wasn't expecting it,” Ali said. “I didn't even know I was getting my acceptance that day, so then when I found out, I went to my grandma and I was just crying. She hugged me. It was just full of tears. It felt really, really special, especially since I was in my grandma and papa's house.”
Ali also learned she was awarded the Go Blue Guarantee scholarship, which covered her tuition and fees, along with federal grants to cover her other costs to attend the University of Michigan, such as housing and books.
She plans to begin her journey in Ann Arbor as an English major, taking after the teachers that inspired her to get out of her comfort zone. Ali said her end goal is to become a college professor.
Ali credited the Moral Focus virtues she learned at South Pointe Scholars from third through eighth grade and at Arbor Preparatory High School from ninth through 12th grade. She said perseverance has helped her tremendously.
“Imposter syndrome is something I feel every day,” Ali said. “I did my placement exams and I felt like I did not deserve to be going to U of M. One thing I had to remember, though, is that I deserved to be in this spot. I was accepted into this spot and so I think that perseverance is something I'm going to have to continue to use as I continue through my college journey.”
Check out a school near you!
Arbor Preparatory High School is a tuition-free, public charter school in Ypsilanti, Michigan, serving students in ninth through 12th grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.