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 Corporate lawyer Gjina  Lucaj, of Sterling Heights,  speaks to the Vision Empowerment Academy class.

Corporate lawyer Gjina Lucaj, of Sterling Heights, speaks to the Vision Empowerment Academy class.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Mentoring academy offers ‘Vision’ to students experiencing difficulties

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 24, 2019


STERLING HEIGHTS — Dany Arabo recalls coming to the United States from Iraq when he was very young, around 2 or so.
“We have come here because of the war,” he said. “Most of my family members are separated in different countries. My cousins are in Europe.”

But thanks to a new program called the Vision Empowerment Academy, Arabo, a 17-year-old Stevenson High School junior, has gained a better sense of what he’d like to achieve in America.

“Ever since I first started it … it got me very interested in engineering, which in the beginning, I was not interested. And now I am,” he said. “In the beginning, I was interested in being a lawyer.”

Stevenson High School offers the new Vision Empowerment Academy as a way to get students to see their future business options and plans in a different light. The Bloomfield Hills-based Wireless Vision — which describes itself as T-Mobile’s biggest independent retail partner — and the Chaldean Community Foundation are partners in the project.

This year, 12 students are part of the after-school program. The students get one-on-one time with mentors, listen to guest speakers, learn how to apply for financial aid and hear tips on how to excel on the SAT standardized exam.

Stevenson High School English language teacher Mary Tangalos said Wireless Vision interviewed Stevenson officials about the opportunity in November, and everyone agreed to run the program for several weeks on Wednesdays in the spring.

According to organizers, the academy program will soon end with the announcement of three scholarship winners. Tangalos said the top three scholarships will be for $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500.

Students who wanted to apply for the program had to write an essay. Tangalos said that all 12 of the Stevenson students have experienced adversity, and most have immigrated from other countries.

“They decided to want to focus on students who were relatively new to the country or who had immigrated who maybe not had that opportunity to be exposed to all this information,” she said.

“Vision Empowerment Academy has helped them to discover their strengths. They were encouraged by their own personal mentor and inspired by weekly speakers who have walked in their shoes.

“The scholarships will be helpful, but the mentorship and experience gained (are) priceless.”

Tangalos said the public speakers included a doctor, an engineer, an entrepreneur and an attorney.

“And every one had similar experiences. They had difficulties,” Tangalos said. “They immigrated; maybe they were the first ones to go to college in their families. The kids really connected with the speakers.”

Arabo said that as part of the program, he wrote an essay that described the academic subjects, sports, artists and interests he enjoys. He said he joined to clarify his postsecondary goals and, hopefully, to earn a scholarship.

In a statement, Wireless Vision Marketing Specialist Zena Jabiru praised the impact that the academy has had on the students.

“With the help of mentors, the students are learning about values, education and life skills to do the right thing every day,” she said.

Find out more about Stevenson High School by visiting or by calling (586) 797-1900. Learn more about Wireless Vision by visiting