Cass Tech students overcome odds to graduate

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DETROIT – Two Detroit high school students overcame the odds against them, graduated and now have college in their future but they still need your help.

These two high school seniors have very different but very challenging stories and they're sharing them now publicly for the first time as they're heading to college hoping to inspire others.

"I’m on my way to Michigan. I want to double major in athletic training and computer science," said Cass Tech graduate, Nicholas Daniel. 

Daniel just finished his senior year at Cass Tech with a 3.8 GPA. Next year he's heading to the University of Michigan. His classmate Brianna Smith is also graduating with a 3.9 GPA and is proud to call herself a Wolverine now.

"Towards the end of the school day I got the email that said I got accepted so I was running around telling all my teachers," said Brianna.

But for Nicholas and Brianna, they finished their senior year carrying more than just a heavy work load. Both were facing challenges that made graduation nearly impossible.

"I ended up staying at a motel out in Livonia," explained Nicholas.

After getting evicted from their section eight housing, Nicholas and his mother were homeless.

"I was thinking about how am I going to help my mom. At the same time it's like I gotta stay strong because I got other things I gotta finish out,” he explained.

"I had to take a leave of absence because I was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma," explained Brianna.

But the story doesn't end there. Brianna would not only beat cancer, but she and Nicholas both received full scholarships to U of M. Cass Tech principal, Lisa Phillips, is holding a graduation open house for them and other students who can't afford to have their own party. Each student is sponsored by someone in the community to provide the basic college necessities.

"These kids are so happy on their open house day. You have food, you come and meet the student that you sponsored. You present them with their gift, you meet the parents and you bond."

Despite their challenges the students had this message for anyone going through a tough time.

"Take your time," said Nicholas. “Plan everything through and just keep your head up."

Lisa Phillips, is holding the graduation open house for these students on Wednesday June 12th. They still need about 20 sponsors to provide basic college needs like school supplies, laundry detergent and toiletries. If you'd like to sign up to help please e-mail Lucretia Harris at or call Cass Tech at 313-263-2000.

About the Author:

Evrod Cassimy is the morning anchor for Local 4 News Today. He joined WDIV in August of 2013. He is an award winning journalist and a six-time Emmy Award nominee. Evrod was born in Michigan but grew up in the Chicagoland area.