Just like all high school seniors, 17-year-old Makiah Shipp was looking forward to basking in the glory of her last year. She was ready to reap all the benefits that senior year at Detroit Edison Public School Academy and its dues provided — a prom ticket, graduation tickets, a cap and gown and a yearbook.   

Prom was scheduled for June 6 and graduation for June 16. The senior pinning, on March 7, was the only in-person celebratory event Shipp was able to attend before the pandemic hit. She spent the last few months sheltered in place with her 45-year-old mom Mauretta Andrews and her 66-year-old grandfather Leonard Holmes. Her yearbooks and other senior gifts were available for pickup from the school in early June. 

Shipp is the kind of student that gets a full-ride scholarship from University of Michigan, but works to earn an additional $15,000 in private scholarship money. The kind of Class President who plans an alternative because the trip the school administrators scheduled costs too much. She welcomes new ninth and tenth grade classes with welcome speeches in the gym. She is involved with the Rhonda Walker Foundation, Midnight Golf, was a Girls Making Change fellow in 2019 and is a graduating scholar from Wolverine Pathways. 

Accepted to the University of Michigan to study political science and public policy, Shipp was supposed to be on campus now for the Summer Bridge Scholars Program. She’s hoping to be able to move into her dorm as planned on August 27,  just six days after her 18th birthday.

She says so much of the last four years have been about leadership and academic achievement that she didn’t get a chance to really enjoy the experience. Shipp is looking forward to the freedom of college in the fall and hoping to discover new hobbies while she’s there.

Last week, The University of Michigan announced its plans for the fall 2020 semester. Residence halls at the Ann Arbor campus will be open. Classes will be held remotely and in person.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Makiah Shipp (Photo by Stephanie Hume)

What were your goals like at the beginning of the academic year? 

Given that I was the president, I was trying to have the best year for my senior class. One of my main goals this year was getting scholarships to cover all of my schooling.  

Have you personally had to cancel any major things for the senior class?

I had actually planned a senior trip for my entire class. I reached out to travel agencies to try to get them to host an inexpensive one for our class. It [took] months and months and months of planning. I was expecting for it to be fun and exciting and wanted to see all of our hard work pay off. I was obviously not expecting what happened. I was expecting it to be a really exciting time for us all. 

Has it been hard for you to let go of the expectations that you had for your big senior year?

At first it didn’t really hit me. Obviously, I was kind of in shock that we wouldn’t be having certain events. But it was also just very tiring for me because right when it happened, I was like, okay, I’m gonna think of innovative ways to have a graduation and celebrate our accomplishments. After so much time thinking, it’s just exhausting. I’m gonna just sit back and just let time take its course.  

Any other cool things you’re able to make happen from home? 

Back in October, I reached out to Congresswoman Rashida Talib to talk about educational reform and host a roundtable discussion with staff and my school. Since it couldn’t be in person, they reached back out to me and asked me if I was still interested. I met with her and we discussed education and the things we can do to transform our communities.

How did the meeting go? 

It was an informal conversation. I talked about students, especially students in the inner city, and how they experience their day-to-day life. They offered me a lot of insight into what it means to be a policy maker.

How do you feel like your experiences are different from someone who isn’t in an inner city school?

Since we’re not exposed to as many academic resources and opportunities, we have to work a bit harder to try to get access to those opportunities. It’s a disadvantage for students that don’t have the drive to reach out for academic opportunities. I use my position as senior class president and in all the organizations that I’m in to try to give people the resources that I know that aren’t just in their face. That takes a little digging to find and I don’t want them to have to dig so hard. 

Did you know you were having your last day in high school when it happened

I definitely wish we would have had a day where we were conscious and aware that it was going to be our last day. We had no idea. 

What are you doing with  some of your extra time? 

I realized that I [spent] so much being involved, that I actually have no hobbies at all.  I used to like to draw and I used to like to paint and I used to do natural hair. I like writing but other than that, I don’t really have any hobbies, I need to find some hobbies.

Have you visited the University of Michigan campus yet?

Last summer, I had an internship there for about six weeks. I was up there every single day at the School of Education. It was called They Never Said It Would Be Easy. It was me and two other girls. We were basically studying Black women’s transition between high school and college. It was a whole research project essentially. We studied, researched, developed our questions, and interviewed eight women that were all in different stages of higher education. 

Are you looking forward to going off to college?

I’m so excited to go to college, I have kind of been waiting for it like my whole entire life.  I have two older siblings and they didn’t go to college, so I never got to get that experience of them telling me what they experienced in college. I’ll be the first to go and, God willing, finish.

Has COVID impacted your family?

Honestly. It really hasn’t been very impacted. Same. Same schedule. Nothing really changed.

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