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Destinee Hawkins

Founded in 2016 as the Hiram Archer Society, the Hiram Archer Student Success Academy (HASSA) is a mentorship and support group for students of color on campus. While not active in recent years, the group is planning on making a comeback this fall semester, with rising junior Destinee Hawkins as president and Joshua Gillespie, coordinator of student success initiatives, as the group adviser.

“As a student, I feel that HASSA is a needed program here on campus,” Destinee said. “Olivet is a predominantly white institution and even though there is diversity and inclusion on campus, there is more work we can do within the African American community.”

Gillespie is confident in the revival of the group. “After a meeting in early 2020 to discuss the Hiram Archer concept,” he said, “the HASSA initiative reflects the original intent of the program and new concepts for it to serve as a model for ensuring the engagement and success of students of color on our campus. A great deal of work has been done to reinvent the program to assist students of color. The program has been designed to help promote inclusion, feelings of welcome and a sense of belonging.”

The namesake of the group, Hiram Archer, was an Olivet College student from 1889-1905. In 1844, Olivet College became the first college in Michigan to admit women and persons of color on a co-equal basis with white men. This was 19 years prior to the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. The State of Michigan refused to sanction the College and no other college in Michigan admitted women for 36 years after Olivet’s founding. Archer was one of the first African-American intercollegiate athletes in the nation when he played varsity baseball for Olivet College.

Destinee is eager to further Olivet College’s legacy of inclusiveness and make an impact on today’s students. “The retention rate for students of color is not as high as it should be. HASSA will be a space where we will hold each other accountable for our education. HASSA will be a place for information on how to be and stay successful while students are here and after they leave.”

Hiram Archer, front row, second from left.

Next fall, the HASSA is planning a lot of activities to reintroduce themselves to campus and get the word out about their mission. The group is planning a speaker series, a formal mentorship program, off-campus trips, study groups and one-on-one meetings. The group will focus on helping students build skills in time management, credit score building and accessing on-campus student success resources. They are also planning a barbecue dinner at the beginning of the semester to welcome students to campus.

And, there will be more to come, according to Destinee. “The plans forming for the HASSA will create a needed atmosphere that will hopefully draw a lot of students in. My wish is that this program will help students get the necessary tools and that it continues to be a resource for years to come.”

The HASSA is still working on rebuilding and growing their membership. “As we work and develop new ideas, we are open to change dynamics if needed. It is all about trial and error in the beginning,” Destinee said. Any Olivet students interested in joining the HASSA should reach out to Joshua Gillespie at jgillespie@olivetcollege.edu or Destinee Hawkins at dhawkins@olivetcollege.edu.

For more information about Olivet College, contact the Office of Admission at 800-456-7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu.

This feature was written by Bray Wright, marketing and communications student intern. She is an English major and writing minor, a scholarship winner of the Global Citizen Honors Program and a staff member of the Garfield Lake Review. A self-proclaimed storyteller, she plans on going into the publishing industry after college.

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