By: Kate Elliott—
Anniversary dinner to honor Muncie non-profit’s past and look toward its promising horizon.
She was a young mother with bills to pay, meals to make, and lesson plans to create. But in the summer of 1987, Mary Dollison cleared her calendar and her living room for 16 young neighbors to sit with her and friend, Raushanah Shabazz, to learn and discover. After six weeks, lessons wrapped but students’ interest did not.
Their eagerness motivated the pair to secure a room at the Roy C. Buley Community Center that fall and recruit volunteers to empower and educate the next generation. Classes grew and programs blossomed into Motivate our Minds, a non-profit that offers year-round academic achievement and enrichment programs for tomorrow’s educators, innovators, and leaders.
On Friday, April 21, the Muncie community will come together for the non-profit’s 30th Anniversary Dinner at 6 p.m. at Ball State’s Recreation Center. The interactive, festival-style event will celebrate MOM stories. You’ll meet students like Jayden, a master of chess, and Tiara, who can’t stop playing violin. You’ll meet generations of MOM alumni celebrating three decades of 100 percent high school graduation rates. You’ll meet staff and volunteers like Dr. Devon Yoho, who is teaching kids to invest, and you’ll meet longtime supporters like Pat Schaefer, who kindly corrects those who assume MOM only serves certain neighborhoods (the organization supports students throughout Muncie).
Dollison will be there, humbled and inspired.
“I had no idea we would be here, celebrating so many years and so many students. These are our children, and we will profit or pay for whatever they become, so I’m so grateful the Muncie community has come together for the past 30 years to realize and maintain Motivate our Minds,” Dollison said. “It’s exciting to reflect on all we’ve achieved, but it’s equally thrilling to look to the horizon at how the organization will continue to grow and serve others in new and exciting ways.”
Generations shaped through mutual respect and high expectations
Dollison is most proud of the students—thousands of young people who have spoken their first words, planted their first seeds, and invested their first dollars at Motivate our Minds’ safe and inviting campus. One of Dollison’s first students, Monique Armstrong, is now leading MOM as executive director.
“Watch out, world,” Dollison said. “Monique is a force—deeply passionate, wildly innovative, and eager to collaborate to reach higher and achieve more for our students and our community.”
Armstrong is equally complimentary of Dollison, Shabazz and their collective experience, which shaped Armstrong’s passionate career to build community—first through the United Way of Central Indiana and Future Choices, Inc. before returning to Motivate our Minds in 2008. She is focused on expanding the reach and reputation of MOM (not MOMs, by the way) and demonstrating its impact throughout the Muncie community.
“By investing in children every day, we invest in our future. We haven’t waivered from the values and mission of our founders, yet we remain relevant,” Armstrong said. “I cannot think of a more critical investment than supporting our future. Every day, we come to work to live our purpose, to continue our legacy of love and promise for our community.”
Longtime supporters urge the next generation to invest
That legacy, Armstrong said, is due in large part to a growing cadre of Muncie residents who want to be the change in their community and support all children’s academic and extracurricular pursuits. Anniversary dinner co-chairs, Pat Schaefer and Steve Anderson, are among this ardent, informed bunch.
“Studies by the U.S. Department of Education show that the gap between elementary students who read well and those who read poorly continues to widen in this country. In our own area, the number of children at risk of school failure is growing and the percentage of families living below federal poverty levels is among the highest in the state of Indiana. These families and their children need MOM,” said Anderson, who served as chief executive officer and chair of First Merchants Corporation for 25 years. “It is a model for our whole community. We all have a stake in its effectiveness, and it’s an investment with a high rate of return for our community.”
Schaefer is most excited for the dinner’s opportunity to recognize the visionaries who founded and sustained MOM, sometimes through seemingly paralyzing obstacles. Shabazz passed away in June 2015, but Dollison will represent them both at the dinner.
“Mary quietly does so many things in our community, and more importantly, she encourages others to do the same, which continues to spread the wonderful principles by which she lives,” Schaefer said. “Motivate our Minds carries on her find-a-problem-and-solve-it attitude and her knack for developing partnerships that result in serving more, and serving better.”
Ever humble, Dollison draws attention back to her inspiration—the children—and tells the story of Mrs. Smith, a first-grade teacher who nurtured the gifts of a shy, poor little girl and told her she could achieve. That confidence blossomed into a 35-year teaching career and emboldened Dollison to be the change. Now it is her gentle, generous spirit that continues to plant self-esteem, mutual respect, and high expectations within the hearts of tomorrow.
Tickets to Motivate our Minds Anniversary Dinner are $50 each or $400 for a table of eight. Learn more about the dinner and MOM programs and services at motivateourminds.org, email email@example.com or call 765-289-1990.
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