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Posted on Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor Tech graduate succeeds on his own: 'I never imagined he'd be the one giving speeches'

By Pete Cunningham


Ann Arbor Technological High School graduate DeAndre Booker addresses his fellow graduates at Monday's commencement at Washtenaw Community College.

Jeffrey Smith |

There was a time when DeAndre Booker didn’t think he’d ever hear his name called at a high school graduation ceremony.

But Monday at the Ann Arbor Technological High School’s commencement at Washtenaw Community College, Booker’s name was unavoidable.

Not five minutes would pass without it being called.

Honorary student speaker… “DeAndre Booker.”

Rotary scholarship award winner… “DeAndre Booker.”

Most improved GPA….Principal’s Distinguished Honors Award…the list kept growing.

When the graduates rose for the ceremonial flipping of the tassels on their caps, it was no surprise who would lead them.

Who else?

DeAndre Booker.

“I never imagined he’d be the one giving the speeches…flipping the hat,” said Booker’s older sister, Glenda Booker, who along with her mother, Victoria, watched proudly on Monday with tears in their eyes.

They weren’t necessarily proud of the boy they raised. They were proud of the man who grew up on his own

Glenda became DeAndre’s legal guardian when Victoria -- a recovering alcoholic who also suffers from schizophrenia and dementia -- abandoned him. DeAndre was 4 years old, Glenda, 24, and fresh out of college.

It was the only choice.

The arrangement worked until DeAndre began “attending” Mumford High School in Detroit.


Ann Arbor Technological High School graduating senior DeAndre Booker claps his hands as he prepares to receive his diploma during the schools graduating ceremony Monday evening at Washtenaw Community College.

Jeffrey Smith |

“He didn’t want to go to school,” Glenda recalls. “I would drop him off at high school and I would get a call from our next door neighbor just about every day stating that (he was at the house).”

After battling with DeAndre over seemingly everything, Glenda surrendered her guardianship rights and DeAndre became a ward of the state at 16.

Booker, 19, said he had nightmarish experiences at boys homes.

“To an extent, you’re treated like an animal,” Booker said back in October. “You feel like you’re in a zoo because everyone is flying around and doing this and that.”

Booker eventually became involved with Fostering Futures, an Ypsilanti-based non-profit that helped him find independent living arrangements. He got a job at Kroger, which helps pay rent and his other expenses along with a stipend he receives from the state.

“I usually work on weekends and on weekdays. (During the week) it’s school then I usually get to work 5-10, come home, eat, work out, study, eat,” Booker said. “I always just try to keep my time manageable.”

After years of negative experiences with social workers, Booker said he started working with people who clearly cared about him at Ann Arbor Tech and with Fostering Futures. He’s thrived academically despite shouldering the responsibilities of work, school and providing for himself.

Living on his own, as it turns out, suited Booker. He's earned many merit-based scholarships and went from a 1.5 GPA to a 3.5. He’ll begin working toward a bachelor’s degree in social work in the fall at WCC with plans to transfer to Eastern Michigan University.

“I’ve seen (the profession) from the inside, I know what kids could be experiencing and think I can help,” Booker said. “I know how to react to almost anything.”

Jennifer DeVivo, CEO of Fostering Futures, attended Monday’s graduation and couldn’t contain her tears at the thought of her organization motivating Booker to become involved in the profession.

“He was one of our first kids in the program and," she paused, choking back tears, "it’s why we do this."

Booker is very involved in helping his mother through her struggles and told his fellow graduates on Monday that she is his inspiration to continue his education and be a social worker.

It was music to Glenda’s ears.

“When he was in Detroit, he wasn’t thinking about school, he wasn’t thinking about working,” Glenda said, with tears rolling down her cheeks. “He came out here to the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor area, and DeAndre has turned completely around…I very seldom hear from him, now. He’s always working, studying or in school.”


Ann Arbor Technological High School graduating senior DeAndre Booker hugs Sheila Jones, the mother of a classmate after the schools graduating ceremony Monday evening at Washtenaw Community College. "As a mother, I am so proud of DeAndre," Jones said.

Jeffrey Smith |

Contact Pete Cunningham at or by phone at 734-623-2561. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.



Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 3:28 a.m.

Why is a great story like this already delegated to the second page and no less than 5 UM-related sports stories remain on the front page? Really, Tate Forcier and whatever his next attempt at playing football is more important than this story?????


Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 11:09 p.m.

DeAndre should consider putting his experiences in book form. It would be a very inspiring read and possibly help others in his situation or at least let the more fortunate know first hand how some struggle (and overcome).


Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

How about we contact Fostering Futures to see what kind of financial help they need os they can continue to assist more kids??? The link is in the story above


Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

It just proves how important small alternative schools are and why we need to keep them and fund them. Skyline, Huron and Pioneer are great schools and good for the majority, but the big comprehensive schools don't work for everyone. Some people need individual attention and individually tailored programs that meet their needs and obviously in DeAndre's case as well as others, bring out the best in them and let them shine.


Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

Absolutely inspiring- what a great young man- and a great choice to help others - you will be great, just great!

Lisa Dengiz

Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

Congratulation, DeAndre. You are also an outstanding young citizen of the year and an incredibly inspiring, hardworking and bright young man. You've taught us much about hope, setting high expectations, and making sure that all teens get the necessary resources, support and direction they need to be successful, in spite of challenges and obstacles they may face. of Thanks to New Tech and Fostering the Futures for recognizing DeAndre's potential and for supporting his remarkable achievements!


Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

So how can we bottle this and give it to Detroit? ""When he was in Detroit, he wasn't thinking about school," "He came out here to the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor area, and DeAndre has turned completely around" No Mid-night Basketball, No affirmative action, no hand outs just hard work and a culture change!


Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 11:10 p.m.

Thank you for saying it for me, northside. Kudos to young Mr. Booker! You go boy!


Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

Mr. Booker clearly worked hard and his accomplishments are impressive. He did, however, have help.* Acknowledging that in no way minimizes what he has accomplished. Everyone who succeeds has some sort of help. No one does it alone. I think his chosen field of social work shows that he recognizes the importance of such help (and also that he has unfortunately run into bad social workers; not all are good). * "Booker eventually became involved with Fostering Futures, an Ypsilanti-based non-profit that helped him find independent living arrangements. He got a job at Kroger, which helps pay rent and his other expenses along with a stipend he receives from the state."


Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 1:20 p.m.

Man! I could read stories like this all day. There are many other DeAndre's in the community but you only hear about the negatives. I wish this young nothing but success in his life.

Heidi Koester

Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 12:35 p.m.

Wow, what an incredible story. And of course an article like this can only scratch the surface of what DeAndre and his family have gone through. Very impressive that he plans to help others who are facing similar challenges. Congratulations, DeAndre!

Stan Bidlack

Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

What a fine young man, and what a tribute to a great school.

Linda Peck

Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.

Congratulations, Mr Booker! You really know how to use your time and talents!

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

Congratulations DeAndre Booker.

Momma G

Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

What a wonderful story. Congrats to Glenda for seeing that her brother needed more than she could give him and to Deandre to running with the opportunity that was given to him and the people who loved and encouraged him.


Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 11:29 a.m.

DeAndre, you are a true example of perseverance and determination! You will go far, you already have!


Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 11:23 a.m.



Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 11:01 a.m.

Congratulations young man! Yes, you can do it! And you have done it! A true Phoenix. You're going to be a strong example for others because you've done the hard, gritty work yourself and that is character- and you clearly have that! While not knowing you in person, I am very proud of you. Well done!!


Tue, Jun 5, 2012 : 10:47 a.m.

Good Job young man! If anyone can make a difference, it's you. Best of luck.