Human Interest

Super Moms & Community Super Heroes

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Yes, this is another women’s empowerment article!  Have you used your skills, abilities, words, or simple acts of kindness to help empower another woman? I am blessed to have the ability to use my platform to talk about amazing women who are out there doing great things in the community. My BFF, college roommate, and friend for over 20 years is the treasurer of Brown Girl’s Read, she told me about some of the awesome things their organization is doing in the community so I had to take this opportunity to highlight the work they’re doing.

 

Brown Girls Read is a book club and mentoring program aimed at increasing adolescent literacy and empowering the youth in their community. Their program strives to provide workshops that are both fun and educational where members learn essay writing, tips for applying to college, best practices for obtaining financial aid, money management and more. They have guest speakers join them to keep their monthly workshops fun, interesting and relevant.

​Their goal is to establish an effective learning program for young members that will increase their ability to be successful communicators. The belief is that books and social skills have the incredible ability to teach, build communities, inspire individuals and change lives. Once youth have experienced a true connection with a book that resonated with their own lives they are primed to become life-long readers.

 

Tamela Todd is is very busy working in the healthcare industry, as a full-time mom, and the founder of Brown Girl’s Read but she took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me.

 

Samira: This may be a very obvious first question but how does someone with a 20 year career in healthcare suddenly come up with the idea to start an NPO involving literacy? Generally in healthcare identifying “there was an unmet need  by schools” is not something that crosses our path as a healthcare professional.

Tamela: Yes I am a healthcare worker, but my first job is being a wife and  mother of three. My youngest daughter is a avid reader. She developed her love for reading when she was in the 4th grade; I began researching local book clubs for children in our area, sadly I didn’t find many.  I did register her for one in a suburban area but still there was something missing about this book club.  There was only seven members, and that was only if they all showed up for the sessions. Therefore over the summer my daughter invited 5 of her friends to our home, they selected a book together and said they would all read it and come back the next month to discussion. From then on the young ladies would meet in the backyard and have from a ice cream social to a pizza party while discussing there book of the month.

 

Samira: I’ve read what your organization is about and I think the name “Brown Girl Read” may not live up to the boots your organization is filling. Did it start off with just reading and evolve to something greater? Your mission talks about “applying to college, best practices for obtaining financial aid, and money management”. Did you see more of a need for these things in your community and how accessible are these services?

Tamela: Yes it did start off as just reading but, I feel that schools don’t have classes that teach about every day living. Completing an application for college, how to open a bank account, proper etiquette at a dinner table or even good communication skills when talking with each other. If you have not noticed the smartphone generation is less likely to have a face-to-face interaction with friends which is critical for mental health and building social skills.

  

Samira:  As you enter into your second year, what do you forecast as your obtainable goals?

Tamela: Launching a series of fundraising activities that will successfully fund the expansion of the program. Establish a strong network of support with the school system and the community.

 

Samira: What has your organization been able to accomplish over the past two years?

Tamela:  Establish an effective curriculum for our members that will increase there reading levels and their ability to be successful communicators.

Samira: You mentioned that you implemented an effective curriculum to increase readers literacy levels and ability to communicate; how does it differ from what they are being taught in school?

Tamela: We implement monthly themes that coincide with the book that they’re reading. Which makes reading fun and educational. Sorry, I don’t give out detailed information about how I obtain my curriculum.

Samira: No problem, you mentioned effective curriculum, these are definitely selling points for interested parents and donors.

 

Samira: For women who are entertaining the thought of momtrepreneurialship what advice would you give them?

Tamela: You must be organize, know when to say NO, an  scheduled days and times for family ONLY  lastly self care is the best care.  You can not pour from empty cup! Always show gratitude when dealing with people a simple thank you goes a long way it doesn’t matter if it’s a phone call or a sponsorship.

 

Samira: Where you would like to see your org by 2020; what what the type of funding would you need and would it take for you to accomplish that goal?

Tamela: I would like to get sponsorship from an organization that would fund our monthly book needs, workshops and field trips. I would love to take our members on a college tour. It is never to early to discuss our future leaders. I also would like to see us have 100 members by 2020.

 

Samira: Also I just saw that you have your own app. Please tell me about it.

Tamela: On our app our members are able to sign in for attendance, see upcoming events, view the book of the month. And give an evaluation on the workshops that they attend.  This is one way we know if it’s something that they enjoy it or not.

 

About the Board:

​Tamela C. Todd

Driven by compassion and a love for helping others, Tamela C. Todd was compelled to found Brown Girls Read. The non-profit organization imparts essential literacy and life skills to girls ages 7-15 years old. Recognizing a need unmet by schools, the book club sessions feature talented members of the community who teach about vital topics that cultivate youth.

CHAIRWOMAN

Vanita M. Sanders is a positive youth development practitioner working to empower adolescents and young adults through mentoring programs, projects, and workshops aimed at personal, social and academic growth. She specializes in two areas: pre-college program curriculum development and life coaching. She graduated from Ferris State University with a Bachelor of Social Work degree and the University of Michigan with a Master of Social Work degree with a focus on children, youth and families in society. She currently works as an Assistant Director for the college preparatory program GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) at the University of Michigan.

 

PROGRAM DIRECTOR

​Candice M. Williams is a state of Michigan Highly Qualified Elementary Teacher, Reading Specialist, and Education Consultant. She has over 7 years of experience in education. She earned her B.A in Elementary Education with a focus in Language Arts from Wayne State University in 2010. Later she earned her M.ED as a Reading Specialist from Wayne State University in 2015. She has worked in Detroit and Metropolitan Detroit Public and Charter School Districts. “It’s something about upper elementary that I just adore, it’s so nostalgic”.

 

TREASURER

Dr. LaShawn Brown is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and MSHDA Certified Housing Counselor at Michigan State University Extension. LaShawn works in the Financial and Housing Education program as an Extension Educator, teaching Financial Literacy and Home ownership workshops. Additionally, LaShawn is the owner of Joi’s Soy where she makes massage candles, body scrubs, bath salts and more!

For more information please visit their site https://www.browngirlsread.org/ or download their app

 

University of Michigan Alumni. Master's in Business Administration and Health Care Management. Currently working on a Doctoral Degree in Health Administration. Samira is happily married, living in Texas with her husband and two beautiful twin daughters.

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