Stories of students at all four Oakland Schools Technical Campuses excelling are not uncommon.
Still, when news spread that Dakota Passage, a student at Oakland Schools Technical Campus Northeast (OSTC-NE) was recently accepted to Harvard University, those who knew him best couldn’t help but swell with pride.
“It’s very exciting to have a student accepted to Harvard … it’s really exciting to be a part of something like this,” said Passage’s Information Technology, Entrepreneurship & Advanced Marketing (iTEAM) Teacher Elizabeth Diehl. “Dakota is a very driven, very motivated individual and I’m not surprised at all that he’s been accepted.”
For the past two years, Passage has been in the iTEAM program at OSTC-NE, fully participating in as many opportunities as he can, such as embarking on an internship at General Motors last summer; participating in DECA, an organization that prepares students for fields such as marketing and finance; and placing first in Michigan Schools & Government Credit Union’s annual marketing competition. He is also a member of the robotics team at Pontiac’s International Technology Academy (ITA), his home school.
“I just realized if I’m going to be here (in high school) all the time, I might as well do the best I can,” explained Passage. “I compare myself to the level of student at the best school possible and then just try my best.”
With a penchant for math and an end-goal of being CEO of a company someday, Passage felt applying to Harvard was a good idea.
“Being not really partial to going to any college in particular, I decided I’ll just research top-ranked colleges,” said Passage. “So, what sparked my interest in Harvard was its ranking and reputation but, after that, after all the research I did on the campus and on the area, I realized I really liked Harvard.”
Passage became more intrigued by the possibility of Harvard after the president of the college, Lawrence Bacow, who is from Pontiac, visited ITA. Passage then applied in late October and found out he was accepted to Harvard through email just before Christmas, but not in the way he expected to.
“I got an email about financial aid and … when I did open it later, one of the lines was, ‘Congratulations on your acceptance, but we need to add more to your financial aid.’ From there, I went online and found out I was accepted and I was really excited.”
Not that Harvard is his only option. Passage has received a full-ride scholarship to Oakland University and is still waiting to hear back from Stanford University.
Passage has yet to visit Harvard and said he may not have the opportunity, if he does decide to go there, before the fall. Why? The world competition for robotics is the same weekend Harvard is doing tours of its campus and Passage doesn’t want to miss it.
Passage added a lot of his success has been due to the support he has received by the staff at OSTC-NE, who have supported him as he has applied to colleges and participated in competitions. He encourages students who are thinking about enrolling in an OSTC program to do so.
“They really should try it out if they think there’s anything here that may pique their interest,” said Passage. “If there’s anything offered here that may be interesting to them … there’s really nothing to lose because now is the time to see if you like it (or not) instead of not realizing it until you are in college.”
Sarah Davis is the communications specialist for Oakland Schools.