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Today's Takeaway with Florine Mark

Aug 28, 2023

With Jacqueline Wilson, former “First Lady,” of Wayne State University and advocate for homeless students


With fall approaching, that means the start of the fall college semester and students will soon be attending classes. As we help them pack up their bedding along with all their dorm or apartment essentials, we think of the fun they’ll be having exploring their new living situation and meeting their roommates.


When we hear the excitement in their voices as they purchase their textbooks and enroll for classes, we just hope they’ll find a healthy balance between studying and extracurricular activities. For many people, the college experience was one of the best times in our lives and we want our children to experience the same joy, appreciation, and excitement we felt. We want their eyes to be opened by new experiences as they grow, mature, and begin achieving their dreams for the future. But not every student experiences college in the same way. If we were fortunate enough to have our parents support us or if we qualified for financial grants, then our experience was probably just as I described.


But did you ever think about those students who can’t afford student housing and don’t have any financial support as they enter college? What becomes of them? Where do they live? What is their college experience like? How do they juggle schoolwork and part-time jobs to support themselves? Is college even an option for them? To learn the answers to these questions and more, you’ll want to hear my interview with Jacqueline Wilson.


As the wife of Dr. M. Roy Wilson, the former President of Wayne State University, Jacqueline is well known as an advocate for combating the problem of homelessness among the student body and in the city of Detroit. She’s so passionate about the problem of student homelessness that she established the HIGH program to ensure that no student is denied an education or the ability to pursue a degree due to financial hardship or a lack of housing. If you want to learn more about how this charitable program supports WSU students who may be struggling financially, please listen to my interview with the former “First Lady,” of Wayne State University, Jacqueline Wilson.


What You’ll Hear in This Episode:

  • What is the HIGH Program? (Helping Individuals Go Higher) and what does the program offer?

  • Where does the HIGH Program house the students or help them in their current living situation?

  • How do the students find the HIGH Program?

  • The HIGH Program is unique just to Wayne State, and there is no other one like it in the United States.

  • How is the HIGH Program funded?

  • What inspired Jacqueline to establish the HIGH Program?

  • We don’t typically think of college students as being amongst the homeless population. How common is it?

  • What are some of the other challenges that these students face, and what other services does the HIGH Program offer?

  • How do you address the concerns of students who may be reluctant to come forward because of the potential shame or embarrassment associated with being homeless?

  • How does someone become eligible for the HIGH Program and go through the process to find housing?

  • Jacqueline shares some HIGH Program success stories, along with its 100% graduation rate. 

  • Does the HIGH Program have a board of advisors?


Today’s Takeaway:

The problem of homelessness among college students is real. With the high cost of college tuition today, not everyone can afford to live in a dormitory or other student housing. Not having a safe place to live may prevent a college student from attending college and pursuing a degree. Being able to support the college dreams and academic aspirations of hard-working students is what the HIGH program is all about and we are so very grateful to Jacqueline Wilson and others for drawing attention to this very worthy cause and helping support these students.


Despite the most unlikely of beginnings, sometimes having just one other person believe in you and support your dreams can make all the difference in the world. A perfect example is the story of eighteen-year-old Sky Castner who’ll be attending Harvard University to study law as a freshman this fall. Sky dreamed of attending Harvard from the time she was in elementary school in Conroe, Texas. But given her humble beginnings, that seemed unlikely to happen. Born in prison to an incarcerated mother and raised by a single-parent father with bipolar disorder, Sky was referred to a local Mentor program. Her Mentor, Mona Hamby, formed a very close bond with Sky and supported her education goals all through school, even taking her on a road trip to visit Harvard. At her high school graduation ceremony, where Sky graduated third in her class, she was recognized for her academic achievements. Now, she’s off to Harvard in the fall, on a full scholarship. Jacqueline Wilson’s HIGH Program is all about helping students like Sky overcome the challenges of homelessness so that they can pursue their collegiate dreams. Remember that every day is a gift and the gift we get from a college education and the people who support our academic dreams, may help make this world a far better place for all of us. I’m Florine Mark and that’s “Today’s Takeaway.”



  • “We would have to go to events every night, go to all of our schools and colleges, and support athletics, music, and the arts. So it was a full-time job. It was a role that I embraced wholeheartedly and at the same time, started my program for the homeless students.” — Jacqueline

  • “We want to make sure that the students are not homeless or precariously housed.” — Jacqueline 

  • “There’s no other program like this in the country, where the student does not have to pay it back, and we help students get to graduate.” — Jacqueline 

  • “Once people realize that there are homeless college students, it’s an easy sale. They want to give.” — Jacqueline 

  • “Most of our funding has come from generous donors, either alums, or people that have been in a situation where they were almost homeless, but they made it and they want to give back. Those are usually our biggest donors.” — Jacqueline 

  • “We were able to house students there among all the other students. So it was great, and there was no shame involved.” — Jacqueline

  • “Every student that we’ve helped through the HIGH program has graduated. So, we have a 100% graduation rate.” — Jacqueline 


Brought to You By:

Gardner White Furniture


Mentioned in This Episode:

Wayne State University

HIGH Program