act-success-2-15

You may ask, “What are 11th graders at Beecher High School doing during their intersession time? Are they sitting at home relaxing and playing video games? Are they gaining more hours at work?” We are pleased to say the students spent their time attending an ACT Boot Camp offered by the Beecher Community School District and the University of Michigan-Flint.

The University of Michigan-Flint Neff Center hosted the second annual ACT Success Week February 17-19, 2015. Workshops were led by Mr. Matthew Adams, a Beecher administrator; Mrs. Aingeal Jones, a UM tutor; Mrs. JoAnn Shabazz, UM- Flint College Readiness Coordinator and Ellie Jacques, a MSU student, community member and founder of Hero Town USA.

Before the ACT lessons began, students participated in a mindset workshop led by Ms. Jacques. Research shows the development of a growth mindset is essential to meet learning targets. The mindset workshop was designed by Dr. Phil Zimbardo and the Heroic Imagination Project in collaboration with Carol Dweck, the world’s leading mindset researcher.

Students were given a pre and a post-test, which measured their implicit theories, or “mindsets” about themselves and others. According to post-testing, Beecher students in the February ACT boot camp showed a definitive shift towards a growth mindset. Students showed great interest in the workshops and also gave very constructive criticism about how Hero Town USA could improve.

Students were then introduced to their instructors and began to learn basic techniques and strategies for taking standardized tests. Sample problems and timed test were given to students in order for them to get a feel for the amount of time they would have per question in each subject area. The students also learned how to structure a persuasive essay.

Students who scored an 18 or higher in each subject area on the practice tests during ACT Success Week will be exempt from that subject’s end of the year final exam.

There were a few returning students who participated in the October 2014 ACT Boot camp who chose to repeat the session in hopes of learning more useful strategies for being successful on the ACT. The session was well attended with students providing input regarding the information received. Staff are hopeful the workshop provided the assistance necessary to help students be successful on the ACT.

By Mona Munroe-Younis

racs2

We are excited to recognize the local nonprofit Motherly Intercession, and share how the UM-Flint community is and can work with this organization to create bright new futures for children with incarcerated parents. The organization’s vision is that the children will realize that their parent’s destiny does not have to be their own and chart successful career paths for themselves. 

A Passionate Grassroots Beginning

Shirley Cochran is the soft spoken and eloquent Founder and Executive Director of Motherly Intercession. Under her leadership, Motherly Intercession is hard at work to break the cycle of intergenerational incarceration. Mrs. Cochran essentially started the organization 15 years ago at Christmas time when she and her spouse wanted to support a family that could not be together during the holidays because the mother was incarcerated. She reached out to mothers who were held in the Genesee County Jail, and received 23 responses. As she went through the families’ applications, trying to determine who most needed her help, Mrs. Cochran could not pick one family over another. “In an effort to support all of the families, I solicited the assistance of five other community members, which quickly grew to 15 volunteers,” explained Cochran. 

What started as a hope to brighten the holiday of one family, soon grew into a volunteer-based network of support for children with incarcerated parents. This was the start of something bigger than any of the volunteers imagined, and they developed Motherly Intercession into a non-profit organization in 2001. After the holiday project, the group surveyed incarcerated mothers, and spoke with their children and alternate caregivers to understand their greatest unmet needs. They found that the most profound challenges the children faced were:

  • Family separation – children had not seen their mother since her incarceration 
  • Emotional trauma – separation anxiety with the sudden loss of a parent
  • Truancy – not attending school, dropping out or failing school
  • Detrimental behavior – shoplifting, rebellious attitudes or entering the juvenile system   

The volunteers quickly realized that the families’ needs far exceeded the capacity of the community to respond, because no agencies in existence at the time were dedicated to this particular vulnerable population. Mrs. Cochran shared that they were “troubled by the magnitude of the problems the young, innocent children were facing, so the group changed its focus to the children of incarcerated parents.” Over time, the growing organization worked with the UM-Ann Arbor School of Public Health to develop evidence-based programs, helping to ensure that Motherly Intercession’s programming achieved desired results for the well-being of the children and their families.

Forging a Mutually-Reinforcing Relationship

On November 1, 2014, Motherly Intercession proudly awarded Dr. Suzanne Selig, Department Chair of the UM-Flint Department of Public Health & Health Sciences, an Essential Piece Award for her contributions to the organization over many years. 

selig

Dr. Suzanne Selig (left) accepts the Essential Piece Award bestowed by Motherly Intercession Executive Director Shirley Cochran at the organization’s annual fundraiser dinner.

Shirley and Suzanne met in 2009 when Motherly Intercession looked to UM-Flint for interns. The organization, by then an official 501(c)3 nonprofit, needed “interns to fill critical Group Leader positions for a two-year research project [with the UM Prevention Research Center] that focused on developing a system of support for the incarcerated families of Genesee County.” According to Mrs. Cochran, “Suzanne willingly agreed to collaborate with us and provided two excellent young women to fill those positions.  The internship placements continued throughout the project from which our Strengthening Incarcerated Families program derived.” 

In turn, Motherly Intercession’s internship placements gave UM-Flint public health students coveted real-world experiences within peer-reviewed research projects and leadership potential. For example, Shirley credits Suzanne with placing then-intern Michelle Fairley with Motherly Intercession, ultimately leading to Ms. Fairley becoming the President of Motherly Intercession’s Executive Board of Directors. Shirley also shared that Suzanne’s relationship with the organization ran deeper as she supported Motherly Intercession through her personal involvement “by attending our Annual Dinners, and the children’s Reading And Counting to Success (RACS) after school tutorial program graduation ceremonies.”

For her long-standing and diverse contributions, Motherly Intercession recognizes Dr. Selig as an “Essential Piece” champion for children with incarcerated parents.

Each Day, Unlocking Children’s Futures

Now, in the Winter 2015 semester, a group of UM-Flint students in professor Tony McGill’s capstone Senior Seminar in Professional Communications (COM 426) class is working with Motherly Intercession to raise awareness about the organization’s latest fundraising campaign.

The students in this service-learning class will put their social media, written, and face-to-face communication skills to work and gain resume-building, real-world experience by helping the organization reach its goal of raising $14,000 in 30 days through the online crowdfunding campaign Let’s Unlock the Future.” The funds will be used to purchase an urgently needed van.

Recently, Motherly Intercession was troubled to find an essential piece of its tried-and-true service delivery model out of commission and in need of replacement. The vast majority of families that Motherly Intercession serves are in poverty and do not have access to transportation. For that reason, Motherly Intercession requires its 15-passenger van to ensure that children from all over Genesee County consistently access the organization’s academic and other support services, as well as wrap-around services of complementary agencies (i.e. mental health assessments, arts enrichment, etc.).

In fall of 2014, the van was a victim of a hit-and-run accident. Then, on Devil’s Night, a mischief-maker smashed the windows of the van and other vehicles down the block (a first experience for Motherly Intercession). These damages, plus the fact that the van was already worn down and needing increasingly costly repairs, rendered the van in need of replacement.

Stay tuned for more news about this partnership as the semester progresses!

Get Involved

 Are you inspired by Motherly Intercession’s mission and interested in supporting its work? Consider these ways of getting connected and making a difference:

  • Join the COM 426 students in spreading the word about the Indiegogo campaign through your networks. Send emails, call your friends, and share the campaign through social media.
  • Volunteer to provide academic tutoring for the Reading and Counting to Success after-school program.
  • Call the organization at (810) 424-9909 to explore other ways to get involved through service-learning, research, or other forms of volunteer service. 

Check out this video to see Motherly Intercession in action and learn more about the transformation it brings to the Greater Flint community!

YouTube Preview Image

YouTube Preview Image

Today, University Outreach wants to share a little bit about the conversations higher education institutions across Michigan are having through Michigan Campus Compact (MiCC) about diversity, inclusion and the concept of “cultural humility”. These insights are important for strengthening the community engagement work we do at UM-Flint through class projects, research, internships, and other ways our campus ties academic learning with the community.

MiCC is an organization housed within the Michigan Nonprofit Association, and its mission is to promote the education and commitment of Michigan college students to be civically engaged citizens through creating and expanding academic, co-curricular and campus-wide opportunities for community service, service-learning and civic engagement. UM-Flint is represented on MiCC’s statewide Network Committee, which recently engaged in a strategic planning process and established five new priority areas for the organization. One way that MiCC is addressing its new priorities is by embedding professional development on the topics into twice-annual state-wide gatherings of university staff, directors and faculty who support universities’ missions with regard to civic engagement.

As we shared with campus last semester, the Network Committee chose Diversity and Inclusion as one of five priority areas. This priority was selected because embracing diversity and inclusion is vital for ensuring the success of higher education’s community engagement – both in terms of how we engage with the community (e.g. understanding and breaking down barriers of race, educational level, income, gender, etc.) and the outcomes we generate (e.g. working together collaboratively and respectfully in order to maximize our collective impact). It is also crucial for preparing students to be effective future professionals, as they will inevitably need to be skilled in working in and with diverse communities to succeed in their professional careers.

MiCC’s last gathering, in November 2014, featured a riveting presentation/dialogue on the concept of cultural humility, presented by Shari Robinson-Lynk, Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Assistant Director for Engaged Learning at the UM Ginsberg Center. Shari is also part of the Network Committee and co-leading MiCC’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.

Shari shared with us that the concept of “cultural humility” was coined by civically engaged scholars Jann Murray-Garcia (University of California, San Franscisco) and Melanie Tervalon (Children’s Hospital Oakland) from the field of Nursing in the late 1990s to address the significant health disparities that existed due to cultural misunderstandings between doctors/nurses/health care administrators and clients.

The tenants of cultural humility are: lifelong learning and critical self-reflection; recognizing and challenging power imbalances; respectful partnerships; and institutional accountability. This approach challenges individuals and institutions to ensure that the relationships they engage in are truly healthy, informed by deep thinking and understanding of diversity and inclusion that goes beyond the incomplete ideas of multiculturalism and cultural competency. This way of thinking about diversity and inclusion is not only important in the medical field, but also for how we engage within our campus and with members of the community.

It is important to recognize that “cultural humility” addresses a number of critiques of “cultural competency,” which was coined by Cross, et al. in the late 1980s. For example, cultural competency implies a limiting belief that a person is capable of reaching some undefined end point in their learning and achieving “competence” when it comes to recognizing and addressing one’s own prejudices and understanding how to work respectfully with people of different backgrounds. Cultural humility asserts that such learning must be life-long because we don’t know what we don’t know and we must commit to continual improvement and accountability in our relationships.   

Cultural humility is a holistic concept that has been overlooked for far too long. As UM-Flint and other higher education institutions in Michigan strengthen their practices of diversity and inclusion, we are challenged with adding “cultural humility” to the way we talk, think, operate, and engage.


Cross, T., Bazron, B., Dennis, K., & Isaacs, M., (1989). Towards A Culturally Competent System of Care, Volume I. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Child Development Center, CASSP Technical Assistance Center.

Tervalon, M. & Murray-Garcia, J. (1998). “Cultural humility versus cultural competence: a Critical discussion in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education.” Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 9 (2) 117-125.