How did you become involved in the non-profit organization space?
I started working in schools with children with disabilities. There was one particular child I worked with that was functioning on the level of a three-to-four-year-old. Now, he’s currently going to the 8th grade as an honor roll student whose now operating on a 5th-grade level. From helping and mentoring him, I realized the power of support. I wanted to be of service on a larger scale and impact more people based on my educational background.
Seeing that your non-profit Mostyn Community Development caters to young men and women with disabilities, what were your thoughts when Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the closing of all Michigan schools in March of 2020?
It was an interesting transition. I was at one of my schools on March 12, and the kids started freaking out. My first thought was, what’s going to happen with my grant money? My grants are contingent upon me, meeting with students and attendance. If I’m not in the schools to see the kids, then my organization can’t function.
My next thought was my kids. We serve students with disabilities, and our absence in the classroom could affect them. I shifted my focus and redrafted all of our proposals and content to submit to our grantors for virtual learning. A week later, everything was approved for us to be able to shift to virtual learning, which was a blessing. I also found out that I was only one of seven organizations in the Metro Detroit area that received approval for virtual programming. Most recently, our students built laptops from home as a part of a STEM program that was in progress before COVID-19.
It takes patience to work with children with disabilities, so explain how you maintain yours with the students?
Growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of having patience. As a child, I had no patience. When I reached my 20s, I worked on my patience by driving through rush hour traffic on purpose. When I went to the grocery store, I would stand in the longest line and read on my phone. My wife thought I was crazy, but doing these exercises helped me in my career field. You must have patience when dealing with children in general, but especially children with disabilities.
Talk about the Michigan High School Virtual Graduation that your organization is hosting. I know you have distinguished guests such as Eric Thomas, Shawn Blanchard, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, speaking to the graduating class of 2020.
This event came about due to my willingness to offer myself for others. I got a call from Eric Thomas last summer because his son Jalen was hosting a basketball camp in Michigan. My cousin, who’s good friends with Jalen, told Jalen that I’d be an excellent fit for the educational component of the camp. ET and Jalen reached out to me, and we ran the camp. ET told me if I needed anything, I could call him, which is how he got on the board with the event.
With Shawn Blanchard, my cousin-in-law is Shawn’s brother, so that was a seamless process. I contacted Shawn, and he was ready to serve.
Finally, with Governor Whitmer, I was contacted by a young lady who’s a motivational speaker, and she told me that I didn’t have any female representation for the event. I took her advice and contacted the Governor’s office. The Governor’s assistant reached back out to me and said she wanted to participate in the event.
With this event, it was all about innovation and forward-thinking. Also, faith played a significant part in the conception of the Michigan High School Virtual Graduation.
What words of encouragement do you have for young men and women who’re navigating through this new normal?
Through all the adversity, and the pandemic that’s occurred, you’re going to make it. Everything is going to be okay. It’s up to you to believe this and understand that as long as you’re alive, you can make it.