They are made every day at St.Michael's. We celebrate when they happen within a classroom, across the campus, and in our neighborhood but what happens when they span the globe.
Universal Promise (UP) is a non profit organization started by Martha Cummings in 2011. Martha has a connection to SMCDS as she was a tutor in Middle School for many years. In 2008, Martha traveled to South Africa on vacation but came back a changed person after seeing the state of education in Addo, South Africa. She had found her purpose: to provide individuals and institutions in impoverished regions with the academic resources needed to ensure educational and career opportunities that will promote just, civil, and hopeful societies. (UP Mission Statement).
UP has grown significantly in the past years and Martha kept many of her connections to St. Michael's; one being Victoria Leonard, Class of 2007. Victoria shared Martha's dream and decided to join her on her journey after she graduated Brown University. Victoria had kept in close contact with Kate Joubert after she graduated from SMCDS and they corresponded often. When Victoria told Kate about her new endeavor with UP, Kate immediately connected with the cause.
They began discussing ways that the 4th Grade could support UP during their study of Africa. Kate pitched the idea of supporting this organization to the Class of 2020. The students met with Martha and Victoria and gained a first hand knowledge of the lack of opportunity for students in this area to dream bigger than outside their immediate environment. The students made an immediate connection and pledged their support. They designed a successful fundraising campaign to raise awareness and funds for UP's important work.
Universal Promise has begun a new endeavor: sending students volunteers from St. George's to teach in South Africa's Vusumzi Primary School. There was one problem, the students needed mentoring on how to teach students. Martha looked to her connection to SMCDS again for support and contacted Kate. Kate immediately jumped at the opportunity and asked for support from colleagues. Karen Andrade and Phil Tutino joined the team and the group began preparing themes, methodologies and techniques to share with the volunteers.
During this process, the teachers found materials that had not been utilized in some time. They compiled as much as they could carry and donated them to Vusumzi to help the students teach lessons. The group met at Saint George's on Wednesday night and shared ideas, insights, questions and concerns. At the end of the evening, the excitement in the library conference room was palpable. Classrooms thousand of miles away were now joined and opportunities that might have never existed for the students of Vusumzi are now available. Connections... they may small but can have an immense impact if kept.
A Note from Martha
Many, many thanks to all of you for last night. I know well that you are busy, and I am so grateful that you made the time to assist our volunteers so that the entire experience - for South African educators and children and for St. George's educators and students - will be much more impactful.
Thank you, too, for the materials you donated to UP. I cannot wait to see the joy on the educators' faces. They are always craving educational supplies, and they will be thrilled. I will take pics.
Thank you, again, for your potential interest in our Inkuthazo Program. Once the Academic Centre is truly finished and furnished, our attention will turn nearly exclusively to ratcheting up those classrooms and the children's experiences to the level that we expect at schools such as St. Michael's CDS and St. George's.
Above all, I could feel your enthusiasm for UP and what we are doing, and that means the world to me. The SGS volunteers were fortunate to interact with all of you. Contrary to popular ignorance, not everyone can teach, and not everyone should.
When I stand side-by-side with true teachers, those who know their craft and are devoted to encouraging children and giving them all the opportunities they deserve, I feel happy...
... and that is definitely how I felt last night.
Martha T. Cummings
Founder and Director