Fourth-generation Detroiter is grateful for the chance to rise

Jessica Pollie has a message of gratitude for scholarship donors. "Some people have nothing and no one rooting for them. To recognize people who haven't been given a good hand - there's no value you can assign to that. It's just priceless."

In particular, the senior majoring in finance at Wayne State's Mike Ilitch School of Business is grateful to T. Norris and Vivilore Hitchman. When Pollie received the Hitchman Endowed Scholarship after a long road of personal and financial trials, it felt like the reward for her hard work and perseverance. "I've sacrificed a lot and been through a lot. To get that kind of recognition is very meaningful. It makes it feel like it was all worth it," Pollie said. "It was such a relief, and I was so grateful. I was just amazed. There are no words."

Rising from the ashes

Coming from a less privileged background, Pollie said she is no stranger to free school lunches, thrift store clothing and food stamps. Though she, her mother and her three brothers always had food on the table and a roof over their heads, "it was tough," she said. "But I am forever grateful for the humility and empathy for others that it has instilled in me." The native Detroiter had to learn to reach her life goals on her own and to support herself, by herself. When she signed up for community college directly after high school, she needed two jobs to get by.

"When I was working toward my associate's degree in Arizona, I lived and worked below the poverty line. Oftentimes the effort felt like a thankless job, and the pressure was heartbreaking," Pollie said. Even when her car was totaled one semester and she had to drop all her classes, she was undaunted, switching to online classes the next semester and buying herself a bicycle to commute to work. Pollie valiantly overcame the setbacks, making time to serve her community as a volunteer and graduating with a 3.9 GPA and an invitation to Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges.

Feeling homesick, Pollie transferred to Wayne State for her bachelor's degree, where she met bigger setbacks. After the pandemic shut down her workplace, her apartment building was destroyed by a fire. And she lost almost everything. "I had to drop my classes again this past summer," Pollie said. "The fire was just crazy. No one wants to lose their home." But like a genuine Detroiter, Pollie said, "I stayed true to my city's motto. I rose from the ashes."

Making the world a better, more sustainable place

Pollie maintains a 4.0 GPA at the Ilitch School and plans to be the first in her family to earn a Ph.D. "I really just want to make a good impact on the world," she said. "I picked finance because you need power to do good or bad in the world, because I could focus on money and the power it brings and make the world a better place - a more sustainable place."

Her career goals include working in the field of finance and becoming a certified chartered financial analyst. "Down the road, I may want to start an investment company or get into politics if I become successful enough," Pollie said. "I want to start a philanthropic foundation that focuses on underprivileged people and sustainability."

Serving the underprivileged and advocating for environmentally sustainable practices keep Pollie very busy. She is an active member in the Wayne State and Detroit sustainability communities, regularly attending forums and talks. Too numerous to list, her volunteer activities include preparing food and acquiring clothing and supplies for Detroit residents at Auntie Na's Village, as well as mentoring a 7-year-old student through Soar Detroit. She applies her passion for running to charitable fundraisers, such as the Detroit Free Press Marathon's Winter Challenge.

"I love connecting with people in my community - helping groups, businesses and nonprofits that are truly making a significant difference. It is one of life's greatest joys," Pollie said. And the scholarship will allow her to help others while she focuses on her studies. "The money helps so much with school expenses. There is no more worrying. No hours spent figuring out how I am going to pay for this."

Detroit's no. 1 fan

Pollie is proud to be a fourth-generation Detroiter. "My ancestors emigrated from places such as Canada, Belgium, Poland and Sicily," she said. "I am Detroit's no. 1 fan. I love living here."

Though she hopes to enter a Ph.D. program close by, Pollie understands that opportunities might lead her to other cities. "It's hard to know where I'll wind up, but Detroit will always be my home, and I will always support the Motor City, no matter what I do," she said. "Home is home."

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