Thursday night was Mercy Education Project’s annual fundraiser dinner. I’ve been a volunteer for 5 years but it’s the first time I went and I was SO excited! The night was especially great because Lisa gave Danny a ticket too. He was finally able to meet the girls and see first hand what I spend so much time on.
I LOVE MEP. It’s a non-profit that operates in Southwest, Detroit. MEP offers tutoring services to girls in the 1st through 12th grade and GED preparation for adult women. I happened onto the organization by chance a few months after I started working downtown. I feel so fortunate in my own life that it’s important to me that I give back to the community. I’d volunteered with different organizations since high school and wanted to find a group in the city that I could become apart of.
It didn’t take long to realize that Mercy was the place for me. I immediately clicked with the Girls’ Program Coordinator, Melanie. We would spend hours after tutoring talking about the girls and after a couple years I suggested creating a structured activity time for the teens. My experience in the BluePrints Leadership Program at the University of Michigan-Dearborn inspired this idea. Our sessions are a work in progress but I feel that they have been very successful thus far. If nothing else I find them rewarding and have built wonderful relationships with the Melanie, the students, staff and other tutors.
When I was asked to speak at the dinner I was even more excited. I love nothing more than to gush over my girls and tell everyone about our activities. I could go on for hours but limited myself to 3 minutes. I’ll have to fight to hold my tongue at the upcoming board meeting.
The star of the night was Tchinarold. We’ve worked together for 5 years and I couldn’t be more proud of anyone. She is an amazing person and I love knowing her. When we first started working together she was despondent and apathetic. It was a struggle to get her to focus on our assignments which was frustrating because I knew that she could handle the material. I’ve worked with a lot of girls and some truly can’t do the work you ask them to do. Tchinarold isn’t one of those girls. She is VERY smart and capable. I haven’t been able to help her with math for years, she writes heartfelt stories and she has compassion that I envy.
I told this story at the dinner and I’ll tell it here because I think it demonstrates the person Tchinarold is. A couple years ago before our tutoring session I found her making flashcards of letters and colors. Obviously it wasn’t homework so I asked her what she was working on. She said she knew a girl whose mother wasn’t teaching her letters or number so she was making flashcards to help her and she was going to get information for the mother to enroll her in school. It didn’t surprise me that Tchinarold would do something like that but I was certainly impressed. So few people at any age would take that kind of initiative to help someone else. Tchinarold has a big heart. She wants to go into social work and I know she will be an asset to the field.
She’s a senior this year and I’m excited for her future. Her current future – prom and graduation (I will be attending both events) – and her long term future – college and life (which I also plan to be apart of).
People often tell me how great it is that I volunteer but really I’m not doing anyone any favors. I LOVE what I do. I feel that I get more out of it some days then they do (although I hope it’s at least an equal exchange). Admittedly I worry about the future and how my career change will effect my involvement with the program. It saddens me to think that I wouldn’t be able to volunteer if I’m somewhere else but that made the Doorway to the Future dinner that much more special. It might be a last hurrah or one of many dinners with my MEP girls.
If you are ever looking a place to volunteer or donate I highly recommend Mercy Education Project. The program and facility are great. The people are even better.
1450 Howard Street
Detroit, MI 48216