SMC student dreams bigger with $5K scholarship

Published 5:50 pm Thursday, February 11, 2016

Devontae Driver dreams of parlaying art ability into designing his own clothing line.

Devontae Driver

Devontae Driver

The second-year Southwestern Michigan College student even attended Benton Harbor’s Dream Charter Academy his first two years of high school before graduating from Eau Claire High School in 2014.

But it’s the $5,000 scholarship Driver landed late last year delivering his dream to the next level, the Art Institute of Chicago.

Driver, 19, received the first $5,000 Nesbitt-Brown Scholarship awarded by the Benton Harbor Charter School Academy (BHCSA), which he attended from elementary school through middle school.

The scholarship was made possible by a donation from Dr. Sid Faucette, president of BHCSA’s management company, Choice Schools.

In an essay he wrote applying for the scholarship, named for original board members Jean Nesbitt and Pastor Walter Brown, Driver stated, “Going further than a high school diploma will determine you as a person, meaning you will push yourself further for a higher education and obtain more knowledge and become a better person.”

“I make sure I put in 100-percent effort in the work I do because if you do not put a lot of effort in the activities or work you do, then that means you didn’t put too much effort in what you do or you didn’t care.”

The scholarship was announced with much fanfare at BHCSA, including Principal Tim Harris telling seventh and eighth graders, “He embodies everything that I asked for you guys to embody — and that is being a great student, coming to school prepared. I promise, if you come to school every day, and prepare to do what we ask you to do, you can’t fail.”

“He’s a role model to others,” said Nesbitt, BHCSA board president. “Let me repeat that — a role model to others. That is very important.”

“My family and friends see me as a role model, and I saw myself that way, too,” Driver said. “I have a work ethic. When I get bored, I work. Last summer I worked at a factory. When I got off work I went straight home and draw, do creative things. I drew tattoos for other people or CD covers.”

“My mom (Vina) has been there a long time supporting my dreams. She’s the one who told me about the scholarship. I didn’t know anything about it until she told me. That’s the most money I’ve ever seen on a check. My eyes got big! I really needed it, too. My second plan (after Chicago) is California. I see it as a big scene for graphic artists in fashion.”

Born in Arkansas, Driver moved to Michigan when he was 4.

At SMC the Keith H. McKenzie Hall resident can often be found at the Student Activity Center, playing basketball or working out.

Driver, the youngest of three boys, selected SMC because “it’s close, small campus, good price. With a small campus, you get to know everybody and you don’t have to walk far for class. SMC has a good art program.”

Art has been his first priority since dashed boyhood dreams of being a firefighter, police officer, NFL football player or NBA basketball player.