SVSU is a special place because of special people. And an excellent example is the presentation today of a scholarship to a very remarkable young woman. Jessica Day, an SVSU student, received a surprise visit — and a scholarship — from the namesake of Ruby's Rainbow, an Austin, Texas-based nonprofit that supports adults with Down syndrome.
Day, a Midland native with Down syndrome, applied for a Ruby's Rainbow scholarship last spring. The good news was delivered personally by Ruby Plachta, a 7-year-old girl with Down syndrome and the inspiration behind her mother's creation of Ruby's Rainbow. The nonprofit has presented $643,000 in scholarships to some 200 students since the organization's founding in 2010. Day is a third-year student expected to complete a certificate of attendance from SVSU in May 2019, thanks in part to her involvement in the university's ThinkCardinal program. The SVSU initiative – an offshoot of the national organization, Think College! – provides opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities to attend classes as non-degree seeking students. Day is one of six students attending SVSU as part of ThinkCardinal.
Please join me in extending best wishes to Marilyn Wheaton, who will be retiring in December after 12 years serving as director of the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum. The museum is a cultural gem in our community and a wonder of art in the eyes of the visitors who travel here from all across the world to see it. Without Marilyn, Marshall Fredericks' work may not have the audience it deserves. Under her leadership, the museum was accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, added incredible features including the Jo Anne and Donald Petersen Sculpture Garden, and increased annual attendance from about 10,000 people to a record 18,000 visitors recently. In becoming such a studious caretaker of Marshall Fredericks' legacy, she sculpted a wonderful legacy of her own here at SVSU. Thank you, Marilyn.
Our university prides itself on providing talent and leadership development for the education community. The latest contribution to that cause: The SVSU Educator Leadership Institute. The 3-day event will join 64 K-12 teachers and administrators - from as far away as Indiana - with 17 experts who will serve as speakers on important topics facing the industry today. The institute largely will involve teaching educators how to establish a meaningful connection to students traumatized by events ranging from the divorce of their parents to child abuse. I would like to thank LaCreta Clark, professor of educational leadership and services, who led the effort in coordinating this important gathering.
Through funding from the Alden and Vada Creativity Foundation, The Saginaw Bay Writing Project recently organized a week-long workshop for the region's K-12 teachers. Twenty-four educators wrote alongside published Michigan authors Anne-Marie Oomen and John Mauk, worked with teacher/educator Colleen Cruz, and learned more about the craft of writing. This opportunity was made possible by the hard work of The Saginaw Bay Writing Project's staff, including Helen Raica-Klotz, our Writing Center director.
Our community writing centers in Bay City and Saginaw next week will begin to host free workshops showing participants how to perform extensive genealogical research of their family lineages. The sessions also will teach attendees how best to document those discoveries. The Bay Community Writing Center will kick off the "Writing Your Family History" workshop series Tuesday, Aug. 7, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the Alice and Jack Wirt Public Library, 500 Center Ave. in Bay City. The Saginaw Community Writing Center will host the second workshop, scheduled Tuesday, Aug. 14, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Butman-Fish Branch Library, 1716 Hancock in Saginaw. These events are outstanding examples of the ways in which we engage with our community.
Our students also excel in community engagement. I was pleased to learn our university's chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars earned the Gold Star Chapter award from the student organization's national office. The status is a distinction earned by some of the 320 chapters nationwide that best demonstrate excellence in engaging, student-centered community service projects. Our chapter in recent months participated in activities benefiting Relay for Life, the Saginaw Children's Zoo, and The Jared Box Project, which donates boxes of toys to children in hospitals. Congratulations to the students involved as well as their adviser, Brian Thomas, director of global engagement and presidential liaison to Ming Chuan University.
SVSU is a partnering sponsor for a number of cultural events next week. I would encourage you to consider attending any one – or all – of these fun, enriching community activities. Among those events is the 50th annual Saginaw African Cultural Festival, scheduled Friday to Sunday, Aug. 10-12, at the former site of Morley Elementary School, 2533 Lapeer Ave. in Saginaw. More information about the festival – whose chairperson is Dawn Hinton, professor of sociology – is available on Facebook. Friday Night Live will host "A Legendary Night" from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10, at Morley Plaza in downtown Saginaw. The free event will feature musical tributes to Stevie Wonder, Elvis and The Beatles. And, finally, the annual India Fair is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, at the Saginaw Township Soccer Complex, 3575 McCarty. There are plans for live entertainment, food, henna artists and children's face painting, among other activities. More information about that event is available at the India Association of East Central Michigan's website.