Merit’s 4-Year FATE Program Kicks Off

November 19, 2012 Posted by David Merritt No Comments

I’ve been trying to describe this feeling. But I can’t. The words at my disposal just don’t seem to be constructive enough to quite define the adrenaline that currently flows through my body. But I will try.

We’ve officially started the FATE program. FATE (facilitated by Merit’s nonprofit arm, Give Merit) provides sufficient resources and opportunities for underserved youth to embrace education and become world-class citizens. Our goal is to ultimately expose students from an at-risk community to an institution of higher education consistently. While they’re here, we motivate them through interactive and engaging workshops put on by our Community Partners at various community, university, and corporate entities.

The program currently convenes one Saturday a month, and November 3rd served as the launching pad. So if you would, just walk with me and our 22 students from the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. Step by step. As we pace together, I pray you’ll be able to feel my heartbeat. If you get weary, please don’t quit. Just hold my hand ’til the end.

6:15 AM – Alarm goes off
I can’t lie. I wake up a little nervous. This program has been in planning for close to 24 months. 24 months of prep, and then suddenly, the starting day is here. It’s a nervous excitement though. I gather my camera, the roster of kids, the program rules, and I’m out the door. I do shower as well. Just fyi.

7:45 AM – Kroger Stop
On the way to JRLA, I stop to pick up some snacks. Granola Bars and CapriSuns. Duh! We also pick up some plates and utensils for lunchtime.

8:15 AM – Arrive at JRLA
This is it. I pull up to the school and three of our students are already there! We’ve selected 22 students. We expect 22 students to show. I walk in and talk with Ms. Causey, our JRLA liaison, and we finish preparing to welcome everyone as they come in.

9:15 AM – Bus Arrives. Time to go.
22 students selected. 22 students present! I’m smiling from ear to ear. I quickly take note of what students crowd around each other. Who’s talking? Who’s not? I also make a note of those students who seem to drift off to the side by themselves. It definitely won’t stay like that for long! We gather on the bus, go over the expectations for the day, and off to AA we go.

10:15 AM – Bus Arrives at UM Challenge Program in AA
The UM Challenge Program at the University of Michigan is an activity-based program which uses a highly interactive and experiential approach to teambuilding and other aspects of organizational development. We view our FATE participants as a team – a group of students and mentors that will push each other and grow together over the next four years. Our goal in this workshop is to begin laying that team foundation, learning about each other and what it takes from each of us to accomplish a common objective.

So the bus pulls up to the UM Challenge Program. Each student hops off, meets their happy and excited mentors (UM students), and we all head inside.

10:25 – Icebreakers
We use icebreakers in everything we do. You learn a lot. Like this:

Icebreaker Question: If you could fill a pool with anything, what would you fill it with?

Student Answer: Beyonce.

Okie dokieeee.

11:15 AM – Headed to Get Lunch
Before I leave, the students are split up into two groups, and the team building activities get underway. I duck out to head to Satchel’s BBQ in Ann Arbor. This place is gooooood. And they give us an amazing deal – BIG shout out to Hugh Morgan, owner of Satchel’s! Lunch consisted of chicken, pork, cole slaw, and mac n’ cheese. Thank you Satchel’s!

12 PM – Lunch
The students come in from their activities, scoop up their food, and sit down with their mentors to eat and get to know each other. They talk about their passions, high school life, college life, and what’s on the agenda after college.

The Minute Maid Tropical Fruit Punch is the biggest hit among all of the tastemakers.

1-3 PM – Group Activities Continue
The kids seem to really be enjoying themselves. No one’s complaining. They are respectful and honestly trying to solve each problem set before them. Some arguing ensues. Frustration appears at times. But the overall passion that’s being shown is so encouraging.

Current Activities
Objective: Keep the teeter balanced while every member of your group gets on

Mass Pass
Objective: Throw objects around the group in a set pattern, with more and more objects added to the equation

We also do activities called Woozy, Ramble and Web. Lots of fun dawgies.

3 PM – Debrief
They get the markers out, grab a sheet a paper, and each group draws their front page newspaper, highlighting what they took from the day of activities.

3:30 Day Ends. Bus drives back to JRLA.
We thank the Beanie and Shawn of the UM Challenge Program for all of their awesomeness. Mentors and mentees say goodbye until next time. And as I walk back on the bus, Kevin, one of our students, stops me and says, “Can we do this more than one Saturday a month?”

That was all I needed to hear. Really. That feeling I spoke of at the beginning of this post rushed to the surface when Kevin asked me that question. I could feel it in my hands, in my hair, and even in my nose for crying out loud! There is NO BETTER FEELING on this Earth than what happens to your inner being when you simply offer a helping hand. I know you guys know what I’m talking about! When you realize and know what’s truly important in life. It’s definitely not the accumulation of material things or personal accolades. It’s stepping outside of yourself to assist someone else.

Now we aren’t saviors. That’s not what this program is about. These student’s don’t need saving. They’re good people. We just hope to provide them opportunities and resources they may not have been afforded. We strive to open their eyes and ears to what they are truly capable of accomplishing on this Earth. We see them as world changers. And I truly believe that what FATE does for them, it will do ten times more for us. That’s what so crazy about giving. Just so happens – more comes back to you than what you put out. I find great joy knowing that for the next four years, I’ll be able to experience this unqiue and wonderful feeling a whole lot!

I feel like I’m rambling. But the point is… make someone else smile today. Just try it. Please. And email me and tell me about it.

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