HFC Student Council leaders take different paths to success
Georgia Cotter and Baraka Elmadari met at HFC and became fast friends, even though they came from vastly different backgrounds.
The two alumnae are transferring to Wayne State University in Detroit this fall to continue their studies.
Both women were leaders in the HFC Student Council. Elmadari was the president for the past year, and Cotter was the vice president for a semester.
“Baraka was cool and a pleasure to work with. We’re best friends. We’ve connected on some amazing levels. It was a true blessing to meet her, and that was one of the greatest things to happen to me when attending HFC,” said Cotter, of Dearborn.
Elmadari returned the sentiment.
“Georgia’s really optimistic,” said Elmadari, of Dearborn. “The second I met her, I liked her. She’s really involved, and she really cares about the College.”
A 2014 graduate of Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn, Baraka Elmadari followed in the footsteps of her older siblings, Rania and Malik, who also attended HFC. Her younger sister, Adria, graduated from the Henry Ford Collegiate Academy (HFCA), one of the College’s dual enrollment programs, and is currently attending the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
“I love it here. I’ll miss it. It was so easy to find your way around campus. It’s like home,” she said.
Elmadari was elected to student council in April 2017. She was recruited by student council advisor and English professor Dr. Adam Hazlett.
“At the time, the student council was a little lethargic and was and recruiting new blood,” recalled Elmadari.
Under her leadership, student council began hosting more public forums to be a voice for the students. Elmadari would field their questions, hear their concerns, and listen to their complaints. As one accomplishment, she worked to get the Eshleman Library to stay open longer during exam week.
“Gov. Whitmer called me ‘Madam President’ when we were introduced. I was like, ‘I don’t know who you’re talking to, but it’s not me,’” Elmadari recalled with a laugh. “She spoke very plainly about her gas tax plan and her skilled trades plan, making it easy for me to follow. She didn’t use any political jargon, which I appreciated.”
What Elmadari remembers the most about Gilchrist’s visit was his towering height of 6 ft. 8 and how he was wearing sneakers with his suit and tie.
“That shows that he’s down to earth. I dress the same way,” she said, pointing to her black Converse All-Stars with rainbow shoelaces and her black dress.
Elmadari also volunteered for the Hawks’ Nest and won second place in the 2019 Barrett Writing Contest for her short stories “Girl Power” and “Handlebar Hijabs and Skipping Synopses”. She was awarded $200.
At HFC, Elmadari majored in liberal arts. She will pursue a bachelor’s degree in film at Wayne State, and aspires to become a screenwriter. Without a doubt, HFC prepared her to continue her education at Wayne State.
“HFC has helped me in many ways,” she said. “At first, I hated public speaking. Now I enjoy doing it. When I first arrived on campus, I didn’t know how to do anything relating to college, even as basic as signing up for FAFSA or registering for classes. I've learned a lot here. HFC really boosted my confidence.”
For Georgia Cotter, she felt HFC was her only option to get an education – and she’s grateful for it.
Cotter spoke candidly about her struggles with substance abuse. She has been clean for about two years.
“I’m very open about this,” she said. “You can overcome it. You can come back from something as hard and devastating as substance abuse. It’s been quite a journey getting clean, but I did it. And look what I’ve accomplished!”
During her time at HFC, Cotter was determined to make a new start. She was vice president of the Community Service Club for more than a year and participated in HFC Volunteer Days, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. She was elected vice president of Student Council in 2018. In November 2018, she was named HFC’s Student of the Month.
“I’ve met so many people,” she said. “I’ve made professional relationships. I’ve learned how to manage what I had never done well: Taking care of myself and going to school. Extracurricular activities were a bonus!”
Through HFC, Cotter attended a Shadow Abroad program in Portugal for three weeks this past May. There, she observed doctors performing neurosurgery, vascular surgery, and endoscopic surgery in an OR.
“That was amazing,” she said. “I was the only person in that program from a community college. You don’t have to go to a university to make your dreams come true.”
Like Elmadari, Cotter was able to meet both Whitmer and Gilchrist.
“It was an honor being in the same room with both of them,” she said.
Cotter majored in biology at HFC, something she plans to continue at Wayne State, where she will also join the chorus. After she earns her bachelor’s degree, she plans to remain at Wayne State to attend medical school.
Cotter has high praise for HFC. In fact, the day she graduated from Dearborn Adult Education in 2017, Cotter’s next stop was to enroll at the College.
“I’m grateful that I could be accepted here on the day I graduated from Adult Ed,” said Cotter. “I couldn’t have made it to Wayne State without HFC. This was an ideal option for me. It’s a really well-regarded college – it’s one of the best in the region. In my opinion, it’s also the best in the state!”