The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development just launched its first West Michigan chapter, and though organizers haven't established an office location yet, they have moving ahead on the summer youth program.
The institute, founded in 1987 by Rosa Parks and her best friend of 45 years, Elaine Steele, uses its Pathways to Freedom program to teach 11- to 17-year-olds Mrs. Parks' philosophy of "quiet strength," based on her book of the same title.
Mitch Dennison, a Grand Haven resident, the institute's vice president, and Steele's son-in-law, was instrumental in founding the West Michigan chapter.
"Mrs. Parks was very Ghandi-esque in her leadership, teaching kids how to be non-violent and not overly vocal when trying to express their position," Dennison says. "It's all about how you treat people—your demeanor, your manners, your grammar."
The program takes a groups of youth by bus through Michigan and Canada for two weeks, following the Underground Railroad into the civil rights movement.
The children must address each other as "Mr." or "Ms.," eat healthy, and learn public speaking, etiquette, and proper dress.
"If it sounds very 1950s, it's because it is," Dennison says. "The kids are completely different when they're done with the program. They're more independent, more well behaved, and many come back home with a personal agenda about topics like voting rights."
Organizers are still determining this year's itinerary. Cost of the program is $3,500 per child and includes all expenses. Full and partial scholarships are available for those who need them. To request information and an application, click here.
Source: Mitch Dennison, The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development
Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.