Joan Knoertzer began the proceedings with a wonderful prelude. From her keyboard came beautiful renditions of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “You’re the Top,” and “I Get a Kick Out of You,” among others; all designed to extend a musical red carpet to our STRIVE students, their parents, and our speakers. Dave Keren, STRIVE Committee chair, gave a heartfelt and uplifting inspiration. Among its many salient points, Dave’s speech stressed his own awakening to the benefits of education and “lifelong learning,” admitting that “I failed science” in high school — a bad attitude toward study that followed me to college.” His epiphany occurred when, during his first semester, “I was facing expulsion…I just did not know how to study.” Enter his uncle, who imparted some timely advice in an earnest manner, such as “You never, never give up,” and “You can’t build up your muscles by watching someone else lift weights [his listeners liked that one].” Dave got down to brass tacks: “I studied all weekend before exams.” The strategy worked, and to this day he thanks his uncle for his insights. Dave’s message was important — many of us are not exemplary students out of the gate, but the desire to improve and seize opportunities can turn our lives around. He then looked over to the STRIVE students, the embodiment of that achievement he’d been talking about.
Joanne Pierson came up next, which is RCAA’s signal for “battle stations.” Armed with two songs celebrating resilience and achievement, she led us first in a lovely rendition of 1965’s “The Impossible Dream,” with its glorious final line: “And the world will be better for this, that one man, scorned and covered with scars/Still strove with the last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars!” Then #2: “Okay, ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain, students,” she commanded. And everyone did. Again, the call to courage — “Climb ev’ry mountain, Ford ev’ry stream/Follow ev’ry rainbow, ‘Till you find your dream.”
President Greg added upon reaching the podium: I don’t know whether you know this, but Dave has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Being an extinct volcano, it’s not part of any mountain range, and sits by itself. It’s 13,000 feet high, and they climb it without oxegen…I don’t know why I’m going into all this….” After which Greg greeted all Rotarians and guests, especially the students and their guardians, and thanked all meeting volunteers. He then made an important announcement:
“Howard Cooper’s memorial service will take place Monday, May 20, at the Michigan League, at 3:30 p.m.”
He then asked Susan Smith-Gray to come to the podium. Sporting another fabulous hat — and putting Carmen Miranda and Hedda Hopper to shame in the process — Susan, who is Chair of the Social Committee, thanked everyone who attended last week’s Spring Fling at the Hudson Car Museum. “Now I’m here for another event! Please come to our Rotary Picnic on Sunday, June 23, at Gallup Park, from 4:00-7:00 p.m.” Susan pointed out that the picnic will be held at the Fast Shelter, further down from the Universal Access Park, rain or shine. 75 people can fit under the shelter, but additional chairs will be provided. Susan then took a vote. “Would you prefer having Satchel’s BBQ provide the main dish; pulled pork and side dishes; or should we bring our own food?” A show of hands clearly indicated trying something new — Satchell’s. More information, such as per-person cost and a description of other amenities, will be forthcoming at subsequent meetings.
STRIVE Ceremony: Dave returned to the podium to begin the ceremony. First, he recognized the students, their guardians, and all volunteers involved in the program. “We couldn’t do this without support from Pathways to Success School and Washtenaw Community College.” After thanking the school representatives, and noting Dr. Rose Bellanca’s recent loss of husband, and our fellow-Rotarian, Joe, Dave concluded by declaring “This is your Rotary STRIVE program, so give yourselves a big round of applause.”
Amy Goodman came up to introduce our speaker, Shamar Herron, Deputy Director of Michigan Works! Southeast. “Because of his height, he’s always asked if he played basketball. The answer is Yes, but he’s bigger than basketball, has served on many boards including Michigan Works and My Brother’s Keeper, and, yes, he attended an unremarkable school in Columbus, Ohio!”
“I’m from Detroit…and grew six inches in one summer, and yes, I did attend Ohio State.” A moving part of his address concerned the influence of his mother on his development. “I was in Saturday School until the 10th grade. My mother realized that a busy kid wasn’t a kid getting into trouble.” Eventually he asked her why she’d enrolled him in all those academic programs: “She said ‘I was preparing you for a better future.’ — By the way, those enrichment programs no longer exist.” Then, addressing the students, he asserted “You are fortunate to have access to all this media today. We never had to ‘Google it.'” Then, looking directly at the students, a major point: “The odds people put on you, you can shake it off. You can have the future you want…[and will] forge your own opportunities — You’re the leaders for tomorrow!
“Invest in yourselves: it will pay in dividends what you put into it.” Regarding today’s information-rich economy, he noted, citing a mentor, “Never has technology moved this fast, and it will never move this slowly again.” He named some leading career paths for the new economy, provided by Dr. Bellanca: “Robot maker; cyber security; artificial body parts manufacturer; E-sports player; and elder care/end of life manager — we’ll need to take care of these people making their transition.
“Always strive to be a solid individual; the world needs more of that. Open a door for someone, or help someone who’s fallen. Become a good steward of our planet. It’s all we have. And — Plan your work and work your plan. You do that by setting and working your goals. As my father told me: ‘Life is like a chair; a chair has four legs. Without balance, it rocks. So stay in balance.” He recommended four key areas: academic, spiritual, social, and physical/health.
“So dream big, don’t lock yourself in too early, and PLAN YOUR WORK AND WORK YOUR PLAN!”
Dave returned to say to the students, “We’ve really enjoyed working with you. Now, here’s the payoff.”
Pathways to Success principal Shaenu Micou came to the podium. After thanking the RCAA and congratulating the students, he declared: “It is an honor to be your principal. You’re warriors: creative, resilient, and will capture and retain the freedom we desire.” Turning to the audience, Shaenu said, “They’ve been through a lot. They’ve overcome a lot.” Then, back to the students: “Keep believing — You are the future!” He then read the scholarship awards.
Finally, President Greg, approaching Mr. Herron, gave him a bag wrapped in maize and blue. “I want to give you this gift in thanks. Note the colors.”
He then gave his adjourning quote: “The will to win is not nearly enough. You must prepare to win. — Vince Lombardi.”