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Gregory Fournier

April, 2013

By Paul Martell

 

Greg is the author of the award-winning Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel. He also happens to be an EMU Alumnus. EMU serves as a launching point for Greg’s story

If you were to read the blurb on the back-cover of Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel, you would learn that it takes place in the Motor City during the late 60s, and tells the story of Jake Malone. Jake is a young, white, suburbanite who finds himself working in the dank recesses of Detroit’s Zug Island.  How does he get here? Well, Jake is kicked out of University and needs to find work. This singular alteration in Jake’s path sends him on a journey he is unprepared for. His journey will be filled with danger, racism, violence, and a healthy portion of humor.

What you would not learn from the back-cover plot synopsis is that Jake Malone is Greg Fournier; at least for the most part.

Greg Fournier is a 1977 graduate of Eastern Michigan University. He earned both a Bachelor of Applied Science in English Language and Literature, as well as a Master of ImageArts in World Literature. Greg was not always so studious.  It was only Greg’s first year at EMU when he was “thrown out of Best Hall for drinking.” According to Greg, he was then dismissed for one semester, and had to find work. Greg needed money. This is how he came to work at Zug Island, a place he would call, “the dirtiest, coldest hell-hole.”  Work at Zug Island was grueling, physical labor, and racial tension added to the stresses of Greg’s employment. Then the Detroit Riots broke out. According to Greg, this harsh time in Detroit’s history would provide him a, “crash-course in race relations, and really start my life as an adult.” Zug Island introduced Greg to his first, real African American friend and provided him the inspiration and basis for his first award winning novel.

After enduring Zug Island, Greg returned to EMU with a new-found passion for education and adherence to rules. Greg says, “It was just amazing how much my grades improved when I got back to Eastern.” He quickly earned his first degree and began teaching English at Ypsilanti High School while working toward a Master’s.  Throughout Greg’s teaching career, he worked in Ypsilanti and eventually moved to San Diego, California (where he currently lives). He even spent a year teaching English at EMU. During these years, Greg would write. He wrote short stories, poems, text books, and stage plays. Then Greg decided, “I am never going to teach summer school again,” and used his summers to compose something else. He began to write about his experience at Zug Island. He was writing his own story. He wrote about his first car, about school, and about his first African American friend who would, “open up a whole urban world” for Greg. It all seemed to flow, and Greg knew he was writing a novel.

Greg retired from teaching and focused all his effort into writing the story about Jake Malone, and he wrote it well. Zug Island: A Detroit City Riot Novel is a 2011 Best Books Award Finalist, and received an honorable mention at the Los Angeles Book Festival. It has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, and provides a no-nonsense perspective on the harshest event in Detroit’s history. For Greg, the real value of the book lies in the exposure it has brought him. “This is a blue collar book full of the words which made Detroit famous. The real value is in the doors it has opened. You can’t just enter this profession and be successful; you have to build an audience.” Greg now has an audience; he also has another story to tell.

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Greg is now working to write The Rainy Day Murders, a historical story set in Washtenaw County. Greg had just returned to EMU from Zug Island, and was residing in South campus when he found out he was living one block from a serial killer. John Collins was convicted in 1969 of murder. The jury found Collins guilty of one of the seven killings he was accused of. Greg is convinced he is responsible for more than has been reported, and his next work will lay out the evidence. Greg says, “I discovered John Collins was a suspect as I was walking back from the Corner Grill.  I was walking past his place; it was full of police cars, and they were collecting evidence from the garage and his room.” He was immediately fascinated by the case. Greg had personally encountered Collins on four occasions, and says they were all negative.

Greg hopes his book will address many rumors which were passed around about the “Michigan Murders.” He says there is a lot of “cover up” going on in the John Collins case, which Greg aims to expose. “I am trying to tell the history, it is a history which is not liked, but you don’t get to choose your own story.”

Today, Greg Fournier spends seven days a week writing and researching the Rainy Day Murders. The first draft is almost complete. He says he is living his dream, “I have always been dabbling with words…it’s so great to be able to indulge my hobby.” In all that Greg has written, EMU has been a key factor in the foundation of his stories. “EMU really helped me to create a life, and frankly, it gave me a life.”

Greg Fournier has a compilation of experiences which tell a dramatic, raw story, and he is writing it all. He has an audience and a story, where it will lead him remains to be seen.

If you would like to connect with Greg, or learn more about Zug Island or The Rainy Day Murders check out his BLOG HERE.

By Paul Martell

April, 2013

By Paul Martell

William “Bill” Swelbar’s career path has been less than conventional, however, hard work, good judgment and no small measure of tenacity has brought him success

 

“Never say never; never ever give up. Because, ultimately, your hardest work will pay off.” Bill Swelbar’s life has reflected this idea in many ways; beginning with his experience as a flight attendant out of Detroit Metro when he first enrolled at Eastern Michigan University.

“I don’t know if I chose EMU, or if EMU chose me,” said Swelbar. He had just finished 2 years in under grad at the University of Minnesota. While studying there, Bill experienced Imagedifficulty, “In trying to incorporate all things important in life at the time: beer, going to class or not going to class, going to work, girls, beer and getting up to do it all again, one thing was clear – I was not getting much out of school that felt particularly inspiring. “ Around this time, Bill’s cousin encouraged him to look into becoming a flight attendant. She had worked as an attendant for some time, and was confident the job-schedule would allow Bill to finish his degree. Eventually, Bill was hired by North Central Airlines and began training. This job would serve as Bill’s introduction into an industry which would shape his life’s work.

Clearly, Bill does not mind a challenge, “My flight schedule was absolutely unattractive.” However, he wanted to finish school, so he would make it work. Bill ended up flying an illegal overnight shift, which would allow him time during the day to attend class. Upon enrolling at EMU, he decided to major in Economics. “I don’t know why,” said Bill, “Actually, it was a course that I had taken at University of Minnesota, enjoyed the subject matter and did very poorly in.” Bill decided Economics was what he wanted and took on the task.

Bill remembers his education at EMU quite fondly. There were fewer than 25 students in the program at that time, and Bill said the faculty was paramount in adding to his experience. “It all begins with the faculty of the Econ department. I was truly motivated and inspired by the late Mary McCarthy,” said Bill. He says Professor McCarthy left a mark on him because of how difficult, yet rewarding her teaching methods were. Bill took 15-18 credits per semester and flew daily from Detroit to Traverse City, ended up in Sault St. Marie and then reversed that order home at 5:30 the next morning. He would often sleep and study in the basement of the airport.  Bill graduated from EMU with a Bachelor of Science in Economics in 1982.

From this point, Bill moved to Washington D.C. where he set up the first Economics Finance Department for the Association of Flight Attendants during a tumultuous period in the industry. He also attended The George Washington University School of Business and earned a Master of Business Administration in finance. In addition to these commitments, Bill also worked part time for a consulting firm where he was able to learn even more about the aviation industry. “By doing my day job, part time job, and studying at George Washington; my schedule was again relentless. No silver spoon here,” said Bill.

Eventually, Bill took a job serving as a director at Airline Economics, and from there, started his own consulting firm. Bill operated for seven years and sold his business to GKMG Consulting Services. He stayed on as a managing director for 3 years then GKMG was sold. Undeterred, Bill again started a consulting firm, ECLAT, which focused on labor cost restructuring, regulatory matters, investor relations and advocating for airports. Bill operated ECLAT for 5 and a half years. January of 2002, Bill was asked to speak on Capitol Hill. He was covering what the airline industry would look like after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Peter Belobaba, Principal Research Scientist at MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation, heard Bill’s speech and asked him to lecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This led to Bill’s current position holding a chair on the Research Board at MIT. By 2006, Bill had just finished completing negotiations at 3 bankrupt companies and realized, “I can’t do this anymore…”said Bill, “so I committed financial suicide at age 48 and left the partnership.”

Currently, Bill is a Research Engineer in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s International Center for Air Transportation and teaches Airline Economics and Finance at MIT. Bill is, “Blessed to work with students that are of incredible caliber. It reminds me a lot of EMU.” He is also honored to be a member of the board of directors at Hawaiian Airlines. He has been interviewed for many media appearances, and focuses time writing for swelblog.com, Bill’s personal site where he, “takes a hard look at the airline industry and the people who run it. No apologies. No reservations. No sacred cows.” Bill is also a “rabid golfer.”Image

“This is an interesting time in my life. I’ll be 55 in May and, at some point, I need to figure out what I am going to do when I grow up.” Bill is very happy with where he has ended up, and is glad to be enjoying his passion. He also remembers EMU as a pinnacle contributor to his life, “What EMU did is afford me a path where I have been able to enjoy professional success, which has allowed me to enjoy time with my family.”

–        Be sure to check out swellblog.com to keep up with Bill and all things airline-relevant

 

KAITLYN DUGAS

April, 2013

By Paul Martell

Kaitlyn Dugas is a political science major who is showcasing her Eagle pride all over the world

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Kaitlyn takes advantage of many of the opportunities EMU has for students

Much of the experience we take away from our work, or our schooling, is entirely up to us. Many people choose to commit to the minimum. The ideology here is to expel the least  effort necessary to meet required goals. Kaitlyn Dugas finds herself on the other side of the Bell curve. She understands there is a greater return on investment in getting involved than in staying unattached. It is for this reason she chose to attend EMU.

“What kept me here was the opportunity to do all sorts of practical research and join teams” said Dugas. She very quickly found her niche in the University during a Political Science lecture. In class, Dr. Barry Pyle mentioned the Mock Trial Club, and encouraged students to get involved. “My grandma always said I should be a lawyer because I like to argue, so I decided to try out,” said Kaitlyn. It was not long before she realized Mock Trial was going to be something she loved. Simply put, mock trial is exactly what it sounds like. Teams from multiple colleges and Universities compete in a synthesized court trial. Kaitlyn excels in the attorney role. In 2012, she took the first place attorney award, and this year, she was the youngest team captain EMU has had.

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Kaitlyn is showing International Eagle Pride, sporting her EMU Tee in front of a structure local Romans call “The Wedding Cake.”

Mock Trial was not the only extracurricular which Dr. Pyle would introduce to Kaitlyn. “Again, I was in Dr. Pyle’s 215 class. He came in and told us he needed a research fellow for the Undergraduate Symposium.” She met with him, and they have been research partners for the last two Symposiums. This year, she presented her research titled: Israel & the Politics of Divorce: an Exploratory Analysis.

As if Kaitlyn was not already busy enough, she recently returned from studying abroad in Italy. She went with Professor Delph and a group of 16 students to Florence, Rome and other key locations. “Rome was just beautiful, and it didn’t hurt the experience that we never had a bad meal,” said Dugas. “I can’t imagine doing what we did everyday: we’d go to lecture, get pizza, and eat in St. Peter’s Square.” Kaitlyn, and the other students, learned much about the Medici and other cultural topics. Many of the lectures took place at historically famous locations such as the Sistine Chapel, museums and more.  “The classes didn’t feel much like classes at all as we were standing in front of Raphael’s paintings at the Vatican Palace.”

Kaitlyn says there was not a huge amount of free time on the trip as there were many planned activities. However, when the group did have a few hours, they would regularly head to the town market to practice their bargaining skills with local vendors. A group of textile and clothing students were on the trip, they seemed to relish bartering and debating over the quality and price of leather goods being sold in the market.

Kaitlyn has a 10 week trip planned to study in Oxford, England. She leaves April 16, and will be studying either international politics or economics. She is very excited, and hopes to live in dorms with local students. After Oxford, she is off to Washington D.C. with Dr. Bernstein.

To Kaitlyn, EMU is, “The opportunity to do everything I wanted coming out of high school. It has also allowed me a lot of opportunities I didn’t think I would stumble upon, but I did.” Whether cross-examining a witness, studying historic culture, or singing “We are the Champions” by Queen in a karaoke bar in Italy; Kaitlyn is making the most of her Education.  Currently, Kaitlyn is deciding between going to law school or grad school to work toward her PhD. She hopes to one day work in the legal department for a multinational organization, or conduct research for a University.

“Eastern shapes my life, at least that,” said Dugas. Taking advantage of all opportunities available has set Kaitlyn up for success, as well as actualize her as a person much more than “just getting by” ever could. We will see what other adventures Kaitlyn has when she returns from the United Kingdom late June, 2013.

Alyssa Eckles

March, 2013

By Paul Martell

Alyssa Eckles is an alumnus with a story, actually, she has many stories…she is a writer

 

“Crowds of students say ‘well, we’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets, we’d like to be writers, but as everybody knows you can’t earn any money that way’…When we finally got down to something, which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, ‘you do that and forget the money,’ because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time.”

–          Alan Watts

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Alyssa Eckles is a writer with a bright future

Alyssa knew what she wanted to do with her life, and often, that is the hardest step for a student. For her it was easy, Alyssa says, “When I was young, I always wanted to write novels, but my parents said, ‘you need to have a real job,’ so I went into journalism. Then all the journalism jobs went away.” Thankfully, for a person with Alyssa’s skills and passion, not even a downward spiraling industry could keep her from success. Alyssa’s ambition, coupled by a great sense of humor and a school that, “emphasized how important it was for someone in writing to get on-the-job experience,” would give her all she needed to be the efficacious writer she is now.

Alyssa attended Evergreen High School in Metamora, Ohio. Alyssa loves reading and her Genre of interest is Sci-Fi and Urban Fantasy. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, and Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, are two examples of Alyssa’s favorite reads. Upon looking for a University in which to further explore her love of writing, Alyssa learned about the Presidential Scholarship program at Eastern Michigan University. Alyssa had always been an excellent student and thought, “Okay, I’ll give it a shot.” Alyssa applied, tested, interviewed, excelled, then received the Presidential Scholar Award, and that is how EMU came to be Alyssa’s university.

For many students, it takes a year or two of acclimating to University life before they are comfortable enough to consider extracurricular activities. For Alyssa, her first classes had not yet started when she got involved. Alyssa was simply walking on campus when she saw a copy of The Eastern Echo. She immediately knew that she was going to write for the University paper and signed up. Alyssa started writing Entertainment and Feature stories for the Echo. Working here not only provided Alyssa with invaluable experience; EMU was provided with an invaluable writer. Not long after being hired, Alyssa was promoted to Senior Staff Writer and later held the position of News Editor.

While writing for EMU, Alyssa had the opportunity to work on fun and diverse projects. She interviewed Robert Pattinson (star in the “Twilight” film series), Christina Ricci (star in the “Sleepy Hollow” film), and Colin Meloy, lead singer of the Decemberists. Interviewing Meloy was a memory that is special to Alyssa as the Decemberists is one of her all-time, favorite bands.

While enrolled, Alyssa spent time studying abroad in Derby, England. Alyssa admits, “I am a bit of an Anglophile.” She recalls a time in England when she needed one more course to fulfill her requirements. She ended up taking American Literature. She says the entire experience abroad, and being the only American in an American literature class was an experience she cherishes.

Alyssa Eckles graduated from Eastern Michigan University in May of 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism. Alyssa remembers her time at EMU with, “lots of warm, fuzzy thoughts.”

About the time Alyssa graduated, the journalism profession started undergoing massive changes. The demand for writers was in question. Alyssa worked two part-time jobs; as a receptionist at U of M, and as a web copy writer. Alyssa says, “It was a very scary time.”

Within the next three months, Alyssa came across a job opening at American Greetings. The job would require writing humorous greeting cards. Alyssa applied, tested, interviewed, excelled, then received a job offer from one of the largest card developers in the world. Alyssa says that, after applying, she was asked to write and submit 20 sample cards. This was a test that would be a pivotal factor in deciding whether she would receive an offer. Alyssa says that after being offered the job, it was explained to her that one of the 20 samples she submitted got her the job. The sample read as follows:

COVER: “You’ll always have a place in my heart…”

INSIDE: “Right next to the vodka and behind the Xbox.”

Currently, Alyssa lives in Ohio with her cat, Libel. She works in the Alternative Humor Department at American Greetings, and covers, “a huge range of content from ‘fluffy bunnies” to straight up dirty jokes.” The line of cards she works on now is called justWink. justWink is a card-line that utilizes trendy, quirky humor to appeal to Generation Y. This is Alyssa’s favorite writing subject. Alyssa’s work is not limited to cards. When she is not working on humor, Alyssa works with advertising, public relations, and other departments.  She is also involved in writing for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, Ohio. Alyssa also writes for Shutterstock, a New York based, Technology Company. She is currently blogging for them, writing articles like, “The Write Stuff: 5 Tips on Creating Great Copy for your Designs.”

Alyssa Eckles has a bright future. She loves working at American Greetings and says, “Writing is my passion and I feel so fortunate that I get to do this every day.”  She also hopes to travel the world, including volunteering in China someday. Alyssa’s journey is a pristine example that shows what determination and a little laughter can do for our dreams.

Alyssa is thankful for what she learned at EMU, “I had to be well-rounded in writing…it’s up to me to blend writing and versatility, I suppose.”

Do yourself a favor and check out justWink and/or download the App

Or take a look at what Alyssa’s been writing for the Shutterstock blog

Jack Cassedy is a young alum with a wonderful career that seems to have little connection with his degree; after close inspection, however, it is obvious that Jack’s journey and destination are codependent

by Paul Martell

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Jack Cassedy is a 2011 grad with an exciting future!

It is common for students to struggle with which major to select. It has become the norm to try to mold our dreams into something that reflects our existing skillset. Jack Cassedy knew what he wanted out of life, but he was not afraid to extend himself to new possibilities, and is now well on his way to living his dream. Jack Cassedy plans to, one day, better the world in a tangible way.

“I’ve always felt like I really wanted to make a difference in the world and help people in some way, so I thought that being a doctor would be the best way to do that, which led me to major in Biology,” said Jack. He would not end up a doctor, not yet anyway, but he would graduate from EMU with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in biology and minoring in political science.  Today, Jack is the Director of Internet Marketing at Prudential Snyder & Company, Realtors. From athletics, to a fraternity, to Student Organizations, to internships; Jack’s journey is what has put him on track toward his dream.

Jack Cassedy loves wrestling, in fact he says, “Wrestling pretty much defines me as a person.” Jack wrestled throughout high school and did very well for himself. He remained totally undefeated until his final match, as a senior, in which he was significantly outweighed by the opponent and lost 9 to 4. Jack said, somewhat jokingly, “I remember that match like it was yesterday…It haunts me.”

It was actually wrestling that brought Jack to Eastern Michigan University. He enrolled because he knew the assistant coach of the wrestling team quite well; they had met at several national tournaments Jack was in when he wrestled for Team Michigan. Jack intended to start his collegiate wrestling career at EMU.

“Young and naive, I thought a little 112 pounder like myself could make it at 125 pounds wrestling in college…Long story short, I started as a sophomore, but didn’t do very well. I was undersized and couldn’t keep my weight up. Which is the opposite of what most wrestlers deal with – cutting weight to be the biggest guy in your weight class.” Jack was also busying himself with getting involved in student life.

Jack loved the transition from high school to college life. He lived in Putnam Hall and said, “It was like being in a city of people my own age…Everything was new and exciting; it was like being a kid again, but with hormones and responsibilities.” Eventually Jack would retire from wrestling and joined the fraternity Kappa Phi Alpha. Jack says that the Fraternity House was in a “bad place” then, and he set himself to help make it better.  After some obstacles and opposition, Jack reports that being a part of the Kappa Phi Alpha brotherhood, “taught me valuable leadership skills and organizational skills that have translated to my professional life more.”

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Jack (second from right/blue T-shirt) is a proud Kappa Phi Alpha Fraternity Brother

Eventually, Jack became involved with the organization Campus Life, which turned into a marketing internship with Campus Life. This job would set the stage for Jack’s career path. “I was given the task of researching social media marketing, back before everyone was doing it. I researched hundreds of articles looking for valuable insights on how to best use social media for marketing. I turned those insights into a presentation and presented it to several different departments and eventually to the EMU Strategy Council (which was over 100 people at that time)… It was a pretty intimidating audience.” This gave Jack a unique understanding of Social Media Marketing and led him to take another job as a Brand Agent for Neebo.

Jack could see a great career possibility in web marketing and decided to “take my internet marketing chops to the next level” by earning a Master Certificate from the University of San Francisco online. He did this while still an undergrad.

Thanks to this strategic decision, Jack was now able to run valuable social media campaigns, use web analytics, search engine optimization, blogging, and all things web-marketing; all when it was starting to be in great demand.

Jack Cassedy was quickly hired by Prudential Snyder & Company, Realtors after graduating in 2011. He is the Director of Internet Marketing, “I create strategies and implement tactics that improve our overall web presence and increase web generated leads. I manage multiple social media accounts, implement search engine optimization strategies, blog, and consult the real estate agents on social marketing, how to utilize the tech tools that the company offers, as well as helping them to implement third party marketing systems.”

But how does a major in biology help someone in web marketing? Jack finds unique and meaningful ways in which his education has made him excellent at his job:

“Earning my Biology degree has been invaluable to my career path. The hours upon hours upon hours spent doing research projects for Biology related courses has helped me to turn anything I want to learn into a research project; in essence, this has shaped the process of how I learn new things… And in the business of internet marketing, there is always something new to learn. Chemistry, which is a mixture of math, puzzle solving, and applying rules to situations has helped me to understand complex virtual ecosystems in a way that allows me to leverage each piece in a way that makes the most sense for the overall strategy.”

Jack’s ambitions are not fulfilled yet. Jack says, “My future will be filled with lots of stress, sweat, coffee, and ambition put to work. I want to change the world for the better.”

Jack plans to create a free, web-based educational product that is significantly tailored for the “visual web”. This is how Jack will better the world, through education that is available to everyone. “If every single person on the planet is able to get a world class education in a manner that is easy to understand and stay engaged with; humanity will be able to move forward much more quickly.”

While Jack’s path was unconventional, he is going directly towards his dream. Jack believes his collective experience at EMU has greatly contributed to the success he has today.

Jack wants to, “change the world for the better.” He already is.

If you want to know more about what Jack has been up to, like his Living in Ann Arbor Facebook page and remember to follow the Prudential Snyder Twitter!

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Jack (bottom) also loves his “Pit bull Pooch” Ollie (Top)

Emmanuel Jones

February, 2013

By

Paul Martell

Emmanuel Jones is a 2011 grad who had plans to run a big business; however, Jones found himself leading something larger in many ways

It is no secret that Universities are filled with people who are dreaming of the future. It is this forward-thinking nature that leads a person to earn a degree. Emmanuel Jones was such a person. Jones planned to finish school and make a name for himself in the large business world; however, it is the irony of our lives that makes good stories.

“Eastern really helped prepare me for what I am doing now,” said Emmanuel. He is especially glad that EMU teaches skills, “both textbook and real world.” Emmanuel attended Eastern Michigan University from 2007 to 2011 and obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship. Emmanuel knew he wanted to start a business; he simply did not know what type.

Jones spent most of his time at EMU working or studying. He would say, “Due to work, I didn’t get to experience much of student life. Now that I’ve graduated, I see what campus life is like, and wish I could’ve had it.” But it was Jones’s work and school involvement that would help lead him to where he is now. It was during Emmanuel’s sophomore year that his eyes would be opened to the need that would alter his dream.

Marvin Gundy, a classmate and friend, invited Emmanuel to a local community center to see how Gundy’s final course project was going. Through this experience, and some chance meetings, Emmanuel came to help at Parkridge Community Center Summer Camp, a camp for disadvantaged, middle school aged kids. Emmanuel was being changed.

“Wow, these kids really have no resources, or at least, not what they need to be successful,” said Jones.

Emmanuel saw both differences and similarities between his life, and the lives he was interacting with at Parkridge Community Center Summer Camp. Emmanuel had not always chosen to be a high-achieving, responsible student. During his middle school and high school years Emanuel said, “I chose to act out, to get in trouble. Through most of high school, my mindset was totally off.” What caused Emmanuel to change his ways back in high school was the parental involvement and resources he had.

Emmanuel puts great emphasis on learning and academics.

Emmanuel puts great emphasis on learning and academics.

“It was by the grace of God, and my parents staying on me, that I made a 180 degree turn. I often wonder: without my parents, where would I be now?” said Jones. That was the difference he saw. It was suddenly plain to him that these children needed someone, and it was well within Emmanuel Jones’s ability to help them.

Emmanuel started a small, after school program on the south side of Ypsilanti to help local kids with homework, as well as give them someone to talk to. When the time came for Emmanuel’s senior project, the Action Research project, he decided to use his after school program as the topic. Approximately five to seven kids attended Emmanuel’s operation, and for the purposes of the project, he was going to add significantly increased structure to the program.

Emmanuel implemented a weekly schedule. One day was set aside for homework and school tutoring, another was mentoring day. Emmanuel used mentoring day to teach practical life value lessons. “I would teach them how to make money because I didn’t want them to think the only way was to get it illegally. I also added incentives.” Children who did well in the program, and attended regularly, would get to go out to eat, or even attend Tigers games.

The children could no longer simply attend on their terms, or spend all their time playing games. If they were going to be a part of Emmanuel’s program, they had to follow Emmanuel’s rules. The benefits this structure had on the children were obvious, “Some have told me it could take a year to see a significant change, I saw it in two months! I thought to myself: If I could get 50 volunteers, what kind of difference could I then make in what I found appalling?”

After the project ended, Emmanuel loosened up on the structure his program had, and immediately saw a negative change in the children. This was unacceptable. Emmanuel decided he was going to start and run a nonprofit. Emmanuel knew it would be exceedingly difficult, he also knew it would be worth it. After a brainstorm session with his father, the name Mentor2Youth was chosen and much research began. He wanted the program to be highly organized, help kids through school, prepare them for higher education, provide them with caring adults to talk to and teach the kids life-lessons that would keep them out of trouble. Emmanuel’s sights were set high, “I did not want to just effect a few kids a year,” he wanted to make a large impact.

October, 2011 Mentor2Youth started. There were no donations outside Jones’s parents, and the rest of the funding came from Emmanuel’s pockets and bank loans. Emmanuel became very busy. There was a year’s worth of legal paperwork to do, programs to organize, recruiting of volunteers, funding to find, and of course, the children demanding Jones’s time.

Mentor2Youth took a trip to the Zoo!

Mentor2Youth took a trip to the Zoo!

“The main challenge was working with parents,” said Jones. He spent much time advocating higher education as the road to success, and it was difficult to really convince parents of this. “It was so hard for me to convey its (education’s) importance to them because we were from different walks of life…when you’re in an area where academics is promoted, it’s much easier.”

Emanuel held garage sales and other fundraisers to try to defer costs, but it was difficult the first year as no donations would come in.

That year is over, and Mentor2Youth has grown. Emanuel started with 5 kids attending, he now has close to 100. His organization operates in three locations: Lincoln schools, Ypsilanti, and Parkridge Community Center. Mentor2Youth now has 15-18 tutors ready to help the kids academically, mentors to speak with children about anything they like, and five to six administrators that keep it running. But it is far from smooth sailing, and there is still much work to be done.

Emmanuel’s contribution to the lives of these children is invaluable. Within the next five years, Emmanuel wants the program to reach throughout the county and have a paid staff. He says he would also like to build an after school house to get kids off the streets later in the evening. Emmanuel Jones’s ambition will get him there, but he is not able to do it alone.

Emmanuel and the children in the Mentor2Youth Program could use your help.

If you are interested in getting involved, Mentor2Youth is looking for the following:

–          Tutors

–          Mentors (once a week)

–          Marketers

–          Fundraising People

“I am not looking for a 4.0, I am looking for passion and consistency”

Mentor2Youth also offers student Internships, as well as Student Teaching Hours for Education Majors.

To get involved, go to

http://www.mentor2youth.com/

Or, visit The Vision Office on campus: 346 Student Center (Emmanuel’s office)

Or, Email him

emmanuel.djones@gmail.com

Be sure to follow Mentor2Youth’s Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch!

By Paul Martell

John Fenton is a Young Alum who came to EMU relatively unattached, but had a major change of heart by the time he graduated

by Paul Martell

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John Fenton: EMU alum, Journalism Major

What do you do when work and school becomes, “work and schoolish”? There comes a time in nearly every student’s life that the drudgery of class takes over, and there is not much enjoyment to be had. John Fenton is an EMU alum who found the answer during his time as an Eagle.

“After my first year, my impression was that college was ‘run of the mill’,” said John Fenton,  journalism major. What John did not yet know was that he would soon become involved with an organization, on campus, which would turn his experience around completely.

Fenton chose EMU almost on a whim back in 2007. “I was in all the advanced placement classes in high school, and really applied at random” said Fenton, “I didn’t really care too much.” John happened to be in Ypsilanti around the time that EMU was holding an open house, and he decided to attend. There he applied, was accepted, and that was the end of John Fenton’s college search.

Fenton said that, initially, his college experience was, “like any other college story; I wanted to be a writer, and I wanted to get through.” He would attend classes, do homework and repeat. Before long, John was contacted by Vision, EMU’s student-run volunteer organization, and John decided to get involved. This would be the first step towards turning John’s college experience around.

Through Vision, John ended up working with America Reads and spent many hours working to help tutor children in Ypsilanti schools. John stayed with Vision, helping children learn to read within the Ypsilanti community, for two years. Fenton said, “It was a lot of fun, I met and worked with good people; it was a great way to network.” However, being involved in Vision still did not do much to bolster John’s school spirit. In fact, John would say the cycle of going to class then working for Vision would become too, “work and schoolish.”

In 2008, Fenton decided to become a part of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity on campus, and it was this decision that would lead EMU to become a part of John Fenton’s life daily, even after graduating. At first, Fenton was very hesitant about joining a fraternity, but after repeated encouragement he decided to make the move.

“Greek life turned out to be the best thing to happen to me,” said Fenton, “you meet a variety of really good people, and it was a Delt’ that hired me where I am now.” John Googled Delta Tau Delta before joining, and was surprised to find that there have been two vice presidents of the United States, astronauts, congressmen and senators that were all “Delt’s”. John joined the fraternity, and became a large part in it.

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Fenton (center) shows his EMU pride and still attends football tailgates at his university.

In addition to traveling to eight major cities, and handling many responsibilities within the fraternity, an accomplishment that Fenton remembers most fondly is working with Travis Rockey in writing the “Ritual Book”. Travis Rockey is the owner of Evening Post Publishing Company, and worked with Fenton to develop the book that would lay out the correct procedure for inducting new members. Writing the manual was huge as there were, “over 150 chapters worldwide and almost 7,000 members that had no standard for the Ritual.” That is all Fenton can say about the Ritual.

“The Virtue of being at EMU, and joining that fraternity, joining that group of guys and the experiences of traveling,” are all aspects that John attributes to really coming to feel a part of and enjoying EMU. John also fondly remembers having some “Gem professors” that helped him to grow. “I had a professor really open my eyes to how I looked at writing and myself. It redefined my relationship with not just writing, but the words I use to write” said Fenton.

In 2011, John Fenton left EMU and got his first job writing for Keller-Williams Real Estate, but he would not stay there for long. John’s connections with Delta Tau Delta were about to help him secure a fantastic job. One of John’s fraternity brothers worked at GE, and posted the opening for a writing position to his social media accounts. Fenton did not see this listing, however, a different member of his fraternity from EMU did see it, and remembered John. He then referred John for the job, and within a few moments, John had submitted his resume. Within two weeks, GE offered Fenton a job.

Today, Fenton works as a Social Media Specialist for GE. There he manages three to seven social media accounts, and generates all concepts and content for their social media campaigns. As far as how John’s future looks, he said, “I have no idea, bright hopefully. I still very much want to pursue a career in strictly writing. People have said the older you get, the less attached to the ideals of your youth you become, I find the opposite to be true.” John believes, more than ever, that the key to success in school is to participate more.

John still attends all the EMU football games and tailgates, and can appreciate the benefits that University involvement can bring. “The only reason I have a job at GE is because one of my brothers needed a writer, and another one of my brothers remembered me… Everyone who has a key role in my life is an EMU grad.”

– Paul Martell