Nonprofit provides mentors for area high school students


By Jeanine Matlow
Legal News

There’s truth to the old adage that it takes just one person to make a difference in the life of another. Just ask Kristina Marshall, president and CEO of Winning Futures in Warren, an award-winning mentoring, goal setting and scholarship program for metro Detroit teens.

“We partner with the business community to provide students with the skills they need to be successful in their future careers,” Marshall says.

The organization also partners with local school districts to find students that can benefit from the program. Currently they are working with Warren Consolidated, Detroit Public Schools, Harper Woods Public Schools, and Pontiac Public Schools.

The mentors can provide valuable opportunities such as job shadowing and internships.

“They sponsor us in all aspects,” Marshall says of the businesses that help to support the organization.
Perhaps no one is more familiar with the program than Marshall, who was among the first Winning Futures mentees. That experience would create a shift in her career path, which originally led her to pursue engineering.

“I realized I needed to help kids,” she says. “It helped me look at myself as a person.”

Her success speaks volumes about the power of mentoring. Marshall says many of the mentors were once students in the program.

“It’s so fun to see that really develop,” she says.
Each mentor is screened and trained before being matched with the students. A number of them are either in the legal profession or in law school.

“They are the most enthusiastic,” Marshall says. “They are so passionate, knowing what it’s taking for them to make their careers happen. They already want to help others who need help in their career paths.”
Marshall says those in or working towards the field of law tend to be the most committed.

“They do such great research to help the students connect with things that are meaningful in their lives,” Marshall says.
Additional support from the legal community comes in the way of funding. Young & Susser in Southfield is a major sponsor of Winning Futures’ upcoming annual fund-raiser to be held on April 8 at the Gem Theatre. They are the first law firm to be involved with this event.

“Businesses are the key to our success,” Marshall says. “We depend on them for volunteers, guidance and funding.”
Their annual mentor recruitment breakfast will take place on June 10 at the Sterling Inn in Sterling Heights where attendees can learn more about the program while listening to students and mentors.

Richard Sulaka II, a past student and scholarship recipient, has become a mentor for the organization. The juris doctor candidate (December 2012), ABA/LSD Vice President and SBA Senator says he always had an interest in business. It was a winning essay in high school that earned him the college scholarship. People may have the best intentions when it comes to their dreams and goals and the ability to achieve them, but Sulaka says it takes personal ownership to complete that process.

“When you have an end goal in mind and a support system, you’re going to make it. You’re going to achieve your goals. The only person standing in your way is you,” Sulaka says.

“You don’t have to try to be a parent or a friend, just a positive influence in someone’s life,” says Sulaka who takes pride in knowing that he can make a difference. “It makes me want to do better because I am a leader and a role model.”
In turn, he has higher expectations for himself. Sulaka works as a fund-raising consultant by day and attends Cooley Law School in Auburn Hills at night where he is an honor roll student.

“It’s very important to practice what I preach and to show them it’s important to give back to your community and take responsibility for each other,” he says.
Richard’s sister, Angelina M. Sulaka, also serves as a mentor for Winning Futures. The University of Detroit Mercy School of Law student (juris doctor candidate May 2013) says she receives so much appreciation from the students.

“A small amount of investment means they receive so much more in return,” she says.
One student told her, “I’ve always needed someone like you in my life.”

Sulaka would like to pursue a career in a community-based type of law. For her, it’s just a natural transition to help those in need.

“The experience teaches you to be more humble and to listen to others,” she says.
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