It’s late afternoon, and De’Angelo Glaze mills about the Richardson Room Café in the Hicks Center, slapping high fives, giving hugs, laughing so hard his eyes close. A faux rabbit fur bomber cap frames a boyish face that can’t stop smiling. He seems to know everyone, and everyone seems very happy to know him.
In a way, he’s been wrapped up warmly here, swaddled in the comforting ebb and flow of college life—playing football for the Hornets, focusing on academics, surrounded by caring friends, professors, coaches, teammates.
It’s a far cry from the life in which Glaze, age 21, was steeped in the years growing up in a tough neighborhood just north of 8 Mile Road, a neighborhood where there is a predetermined path for many young men, one that doesn’t include study abroad and late night study groups.
In 2009, his cousin was shot dead over a dice game. Sometimes, while hanging out on porches in his Royal Oak Township neighborhood, De’Angelo would hear the crackle of gunfire break apart the night. Many of his peers—the ones with talent, potential, intelligence – would choose a life bound to the streets, he says, a future concerned with hustling, dealing drugs, pushing the edges of life, and flirting with an early end to it all.
Glaze blazed his own trail.
“It’s become clearer to me recently that we shouldn’t have to choose between these two paths because it’s a false choice,” he says. “No one really wants to choose a road that leads to crime, to possibly being killed. But for many it’s all they know. I wanted something different.”
Rarely does one get out alone. There’s almost always an encouraging believer, a loyal and loving friend or relative who sees something in us and pushes us to see it, too, to imagine ourselves in a better spot.
For Glaze, a business major, that encouraging believer was his mother. That Glaze would go to college was a foregone conclusion in her eyes, he says. The way out— the way to making a better life—was through education. He will be the first in his family to graduate from college.
“I didn’t see anyone do this. It was trial and error. I didn’t have any one in front of me,” he says. “I had to pave my own way. But people pushed me because they saw something in me. My mom always said, ‘Education is the key.’”
Not everyone was so involved. One afternoon, Glaze was sitting on his front porch with a few friends when his father drove by. He stopped the car, rolled down the window and shouted to his 13-year-old son, a boy with whom he had scarcely been involved.
“He said, ‘They won’t give me a blood (paternity) test for you. You’re not my son,’” Glaze says. “Then he drove away. I don’t remember what I felt at the time. I was in shock. It rattled me.”
Still, he sloughed it off, tried to stay strong, for himself and for his mother and little sister. He’d need to.
A few years later, his mother developed an ovarian cyst, and had to quit her fulltime job at an auto parts manufacturer to focus on her treatment. The loss of income meant that the family lost nearly everything except their house. She found part-time work at Target, but it was barely enough.
For a year, the family fought a monthly battle to keep the gas on. The house routinely had no heat or hot water. To get to sleep that winter, they huddled under mountains of blankets in rooms warmed with space heaters. Pinching pennies, they would store bulk food in a chest freezer in the basement. It was a dark year, the lights turned off whenever they could be. But something burned bright in him, a fire to keep going.
“I had to be the man of the house,” Glaze says. “I had to take care of my mom and sister. I learned a lot at a young age, I guess.”
That Christmas, his mother told her kids that there wouldn’t be many gifts. Times were simply too thin.
“Right then I said, ‘Don’t buy me any gifts.’ I still say that. I’ll take care of my own responsibilities. My motivation in almost everything I do is so my mom doesn’t have to work hard ever again. She sacrificed for me. She gave up a lot so that I could have what I have. Getting a job, making some money for her, that will make me feel like I’m playing my role.”
Glaze was developing a maturity seen in few teens, but he was still a high school kid, still needed the outlets through which the pulse of youth surges. In sports, he found his spark.
At Ferndale High School, he was a multi-letter athlete: an all-state shot-putter, MVP of the boy’s track team, captain of the football team. His talents on the gridiron caught the attention of Jamie Zorbo, head coach of the Hornets football team, who recruited Glaze.
His college choices came down to Michigan State University and K. He saw himself succeeding at either institution, and in the throes of trying to decide talked it over with a calculus teacher.
“She told me, you can have relationships at school anywhere. It’s the ones you develop with other athletes that will last forever,” Glaze says. “The next hour I finished my application to K.”
He toiled in the trenches, on both the offensive and defensive line, for two years. Then he decided football wasn’t for him anymore.
“My time with football had passed,” he says. “It was taxing more than fun. It was time to move on from it.”
And Glaze made the most of the time he gained after leaving the sport. If anything, life might have gotten busier.
He became a resident assistant, became involved in a host of student activity groups, and spent spring term 2013 on study abroad in Bonn, Germany, an experience that taught him “a sense of being adaptable to any situation, of being able to be independent in a different culture with different people.”
“In many ways, De’Angelo represents the liberating power of the liberal arts,” says Sarah B. Westfall, vice president for student development and dean of students “He’s an intelligent, bright, curious, enthusiastic young man who has the freedom to make a range of choices and think broadly about who he is and what his life can be. All of that is exactly what a superb liberal arts education helps a person do. It’s about freedom.”
His K educational experience has also been about friendships based on reciprocal love and a deep desire to serve. For four years, Glaze has been deeply connected to K in part through friendships with students from Los Angeles. Many students from LA attend K as Posse Scholars, a scholarship program that supports public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential often overlooked by traditional college selection processes. Each year during winter quarter the Posse Foundation-Los Angeles convenes a “working retreat” of all the K Posse Scholars and their invited guests. The latter include fellow K students, faculty, staff, and, every year he’s been here, De’Angelo Glaze—a testament to the depth and breadth of his friendships on campus.
Serving others is important to Glaze. “De’Angelo, or any other student from a challenging background, adds unique perspectives to class discussions,” says Amy MacMillan, the L. Lee Stryker Assistant Professor of Business Management, who has had business majors in several classes. “There is a desire in many of these students to give back. I’m moved by how much I see this desire in De’Angelo. He is an excellent example of the social justice spirit that makes K so special.”
Glaze has seen different sides of the education system, from the resource-thin environment of an urban school system to a college like K, where students are free to focus on developing their potential because their needs are consistently met.
“Education is the only way out,” he says. “Supposedly everyone has equal rights, but that’s not so as far as opportunities. Your background has a heavy influence on that.
“I feel like there are an endless amount of opportunities because I went to K. I can talk to different kinds of people, adapt to different situations, learn from others who are not like me. Going to school here awakened me to a lot of hidden abilities. But I know that in a way I’m lucky. And having an opportunity like I did shouldn’t come down to luck. It should be a right for anyone who has talent, ability and a desire to work hard.”
When Glaze graduates this June, his mother and sister will, of course, be in attendance. And when he looks out to see them, in some ways, he says, he will be looking back as much as forward, thinking about challenges met, sacrifices made.
“It will be an emotional day full of tears of joy,” he says. “There will be a sense of accomplishment, I’m sure. But it really will be about knowing that this is the beginning of where my life’s heading. It’ll be a day when I can say that I came a long way, but have a lot further to go.”