By Sonya Bernard-Hollins, publisher
KALAMAZOO (MICH.)-It was a cold and rainy day on the outside, however more than a dozen girls were beaming with excitement. They were members of the 2nd annual Tate-Stone Travel Writers Academy and were excited about the unveiling of their Girls Can! Magazine edition. The event held on Oct. 3, was hosted by the Merze Tate Travel Club and MLive’s Kalamazoo Gazette. The public gathering allowed for the 15 girls who participated in the 6-day summer writers academy to thank sponsors, volunteers and donors of the academy. The unveiling event, which was led by the girls, also allowed family members and guests the chance to view a video of some of their amazing journeys and interviews which were highlighted in their magazine.
Their six-day adventure began a few weeks before the academy when they received media training with the Battle Creek Enquirer. Editors of the Enquirer took a day to train the girls on writing, how to create a video and photography; all while covering the annual Cereal Festival. Through area support and a GoFundMe campaign, dozens of donors contributed to the effort to make the week-long academy a success and free for the girls.
Students were treated to a Day at Kellogg’s Company in Battle Creek where they met and had lunch with women executives of Kellogg’s African American Resource Group (KAARG). With the help of KAARG, the students received an exclusive tour of Kellogg’s Pilot Plant–something few people in the public are granted. The reporters also interviewed women in business such as Sabrina Pritchett-Evans, owner and leader of her own State Farm Insurance team; Janene and Erfan Pirbhai, travel consultant; and Karen Arvanigian, president of Trinity Warehouse Services.
Other women volunteered their time to help with the daily geography, writing and career building workshops. In what was truly a “village” effort, women helped drive and prepare meals for the girls. On the Move Kalamazoo volunteered their workout divas for morning workouts. The Barn Theatre treated the girls to a Backstage Xperience and play, Fiddler on the Roof. Girls made cupcakes with the owner of Kalamazoo’s Garden Gate Cafe, worked with editors of the Kalamazoo Gazette and media specialists at Public Media Network.
The Tate-Stone Travel Writers Academy was inspired by Merze Tate and Lucinda Stone. Tate, a 1927 graduate of Western Michigan University was the first African American female to receive a bachelor’s degree from WMU, the first African American to graduate from Oxford University, and the first African American female to earn a Ph.D. in political science from Radcliffe College and Harvard University. She also was a world traveler, expert in disarmament, author, photographer, inventor, national Bridge champion and more. (Learn more at www.merzetate.com). Stone was a founder of women’s clubs and led college-aged girls on study abroad trips in the late 1800s.