It is often said that family needs not be blood-related, and Evan Leedy, 23, exemplifies this ideal. In 2015, Leedy read a Detroit Free Press article about James Robertson, a down-to-earth factory worker. Known as the “Walking Man,” Robertson traveled 21 miles to work by foot each day.
So moved was Leedy by Robertson’s story that he started a GoFundMe campaign in hopes of raising $25,000 to purchase him a car. Within seven days, the fundraiser had drawn in more than $350,000. Topping it off, Leedy says, Suburban Ford donated a new car to Robertson, ensuring not only that he had enough money to move closer to his job, but to help him plan for retirement. In the years since, Robertson and Leedy have remained close.
“He comes to my family’s holiday parties,” relates Leedy, “and was at my wedding last year.”
Now a network administrator for a division of Illinois Tool Works (ITW), Leedy got a jump start on his college education through Early College of Macomb (ECM) at 15.
“The ECM program was enticing,” says Leedy. “It seemed like a great opportunity to not only start college classes while still attending high school, but also to get an associate degree for no cost.”
Each year, five Dakota High School students are selected for the accelerated education program and, in 2011, Leedy’s name was randomly chosen after passing the entrance exam. Only 15 at the time, Leedy relied on his parents and friends to help him get to campus until he obtained his driver’s license. The rigorous curriculum often required him to manage three classes at Dakota and another three at Macomb, after which he worked the rest of the evening.
“It was definitely a challenge juggling high school classes, college classes and a job,” offers Leedy, “but it was such a rewarding feeling at the end of it all.”
Whenever Leedy found himself encountering difficulty with a course, he was able to rely on Macomb’s plentiful resources.
“Staying organized and taking advantage of tutoring at Macomb’s library really made a difference in my studies,” says Leedy. “ECM and Macomb have plenty of resources available to help ensure you are successful throughout the program, so take advantage of them. If you are struggling in a class, you are not alone!”
Shortly before completing high school, Leedy was offered an internship at ITW. That led to a permanent role with the company, followed by a salaried full-time position after he earned his Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Management degree from Wayne State University. Come May 2, Leedy is set to graduate with his master’s degree, also in Information Systems Management.
“Managing high school, college and a job all at once really helped me prepare for managing various projects and tasks throughout my career,” says Leedy. “I would not have the job that I do or be graduating with my master’s degree without any student loans if it wasn’t for the ECM program.”