First class of UD Flyer Promise Scholars to graduate: ‘I made it. I didn’t do it alone’

Dezanee' Bluthenthal is a psychology major at the University of Dayton preparing for May graduation.
Dezanee' Bluthenthal is a psychology major at the University of Dayton preparing for May graduation.

Credit: University of Dayton

Credit: University of Dayton

In May, 40 students from the first class of the University of Dayton’s Flyer Promise Scholars program will graduate.

The program established in 2017 assists high school seniors at partner schools with substantial university and donor funded scholarships and grant assistance. The students are also offered support in the form of a mentorship and leadership opportunities.

“I am so proud of each and every student for what they have accomplished,” said Dean of Admissions Donnell Wiggins. “They have persevered through ups and downs; they have changed our campus for the better by starting new organizations like our first Hispanic fraternity; they have served as resident advisors, peer mentors and president’s emissaries; and some have even secured job offers months before graduation. They are change agents. They’re going to influence the world in a meaningful way.”

Over the last four years the program has accepted 168 students, most of them on track to graduate in four years. The students admitted to the program are from various Dayton-area high schools and qualify for the need-based federal Pell Grant.

Wiggins said the program allows high achieving historically underserved and underrepresented students have greater access to the university and its opportunities. The students are offered mentors and success coaches to help them navigate college and life in general. Many of the students take on leadership opportunities on campus to become resident advisors, joining student government, and developing new student organizations.

Dezanee’ Bluthenthal, a first-generation college graduate, graduated from the Dayton Early College Academy and faced many challenges before attending college which made the idea of a degree a financially out of reach.

Students at the University of Dayton shuffle to class Thursday April 1,2021.The percentage of 2020 high school graduates enrolling immediately in college declined nationally by 6.8 percent this school year — an unprecedented drop, according to the National Student Clearinghouse — but local data was more mixed. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Students at the University of Dayton shuffle to class Thursday April 1,2021.The percentage of 2020 high school graduates enrolling immediately in college declined nationally by 6.8 percent this school year — an unprecedented drop, according to the National Student Clearinghouse — but local data was more mixed. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

“My family really didn’t have much, but when it came to school, that was something my mother made sure we took very seriously,” she said. “So it wasn’t that I doubted I was educated enough or had the willpower to succeed here.”

During her time at UD she suffered the loss of her grandfather and was temporarily homeless, but still made it a point to support others.

Next month, she will graduate with a bachelor’s in psychology and shares her triumph with Flyers Promise program.

“For my whole life, I’ve been in survival mode: How am I going to make sure my family is okay, and I have clothes on my back and food. To think, I’m going to have a bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton — it still doesn’t feel real,” Bluthenthal said. “But I made it. I didn’t do it alone, I did it with Flyer Promise by my side and supporting me in every way they can.”

Graduation will be held in person on the campus May 7 through May 9 with each graduate allowed to invite four guests.

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