What makes you a Difference Maker?
I am a Difference Maker because I am compassionate towards people and I am committed to advancing educational opportunities for youth and women in my community.
For nearly 10 years, I have worked in Inkster, Michigan and neighboring communities on matters of literacy and education inequalities. I have worked directly with people from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Specifically, I have taught English as a second language, as well as trained adults of various cultures to become community leaders, tutors, and responsible citizens.
In 2007, at age 23, I established The Josie Odum Morris Literacy Project, Inc. (JOMLP), a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization named in honor of my grandmother who was an educator and community volunteer. JOMLP initially sought to provide family literacy services in the Inkster community. As of 2015, JOMLP concentrates its efforts on helping Inkster adults improve their basic reading, writing and math skills.
I have shared my leadership, entrepreneurship, and pedagogical knowledge with church groups, women’s groups, elementary school students, and university students locally and nationwide.
From 2013 to 2015, I served as the education director for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Oakland and Macomb Counties' 'field Zone unit in Southfield, MI. Within one academic year, I successfully increased the number of girls represented in the Club tutoring program by 170 percent. Additionally, under my leadership, 45 percent of Club members enrolled in the tutoring program increased their grades in the academic subject that they received tutoring in.
I have received numerous accolades for my leadership and professional accomplishments. Among my honors includes a NAACP Award, Spirit of Detroit Award, and Young People For Fellowship (YP4) for my ongoing commitment to social justice work.
Additionally, I am the author of the Coretta Scott King Award and International Reading Association nominated children’s book Mama Got Rhythm and Daddy Got Rhyme. I have been featured in the Michigan Chronicle, Metro Parent Magazine, Detroit Free Press, The Ypsilanti Courier, Mix 92.3 FM Radio, Fox 2 News, and WWJ/TV 50 for my literary work and literacy advocacy contributions.
In 2011, I was one of several local children's authors selected to participate in Panera Bread Family Fun Days, a Panera Bread partnership with Early Learning Communities, a United Way for Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM) initiative, which provides free educational activities and information for children and their parents on the second Saturday of each month during the school year.
In 2013, my second children's manuscript Jazz-A-Bet: An Original Jazz Alphabet won second place in the University of Michigan-Dearborn Writing Awards in the poetry category. That same year, I was awarded UM-Dearborn's College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters (CASL) Student Outreach and Academic Resources (SOAR) SOAR Ambassador Award for my positive representation of the program on and off campus.
In fall 2015, I was honored for academic excellence by being included on the College of Education, Health, and Human Services' Dean's List.
In February 2016, I was one of 20 students selected to participate in the Soul of Success Retreat presented by the University of Michigan-Dearborn African and African-American Studies Department annually. On March 18-19, I joined other students of color to discuss opportunities for advancement in higher education and various career fields.
Since 2013, I have been active in the University of Michigan-Dearborn's CASL SOAR program by serving on panel discussions at the annual On the Move Workshop. Also, I created a scholarship guide to benefit SOAR students.
Additionally, I have participated in programs hosted by the Women's Resource Center (WRC) on campus. For the past two years, I have spoken to nontraditional age women college students about scholarship opportunities and strategies for academic success at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Like the SOAR program, I created a scholarship guide for women served by the WRC.
In 2014, I earned a scholarship to join the Women's Resource Center at the American Association of University Women's National Conference for College Women Student Leaders Conference (NCCWSL) in Baltimore, Maryland.
That same year, I served as a reading mentor to kindergarten students at the Early Childhood Education Center in Dearborn, MI. I volunteered for a full semester as a reading mentor through the Read to Me program led by University of Michigan-Dearborn Professor Danielle DeFauw.
Recently, I joined InterVarsity Christian Fellowship by participating in weekly Bible studies on Thursday afternoons. Still, I continue to be involved in programs offered through the SOAR program and the Women's Resource Center.
What is your Dream Career?
Next year, I plan to apply to graduate school to earn a Master’s Degree in Reading Education. I plan to acquire the knowledge necessary to become a reading specialist with the goal of teaching underserved youth.
As a long term goal, I plan to consultant for school districts on how to design research-based and culturally responsive literacy programs to benefit underserved youth.
To prepare for graduate school, I plan to apply to the Institute for Recruitment of Teachers (IRT). The IRT addresses the lack of diversity in the nation’s teaching faculties by recruiting outstanding students of color and other scholars committed to diversity, counseling them through the graduate school application process, and advocating for sufficient funding for advanced study. I believe the IRT program will prepare me for graduate school and a long-term career in the field of education.
Was your most Defining Moment at UM-Dearborn:
As a prospective UM-Dearborn student, I attended the CASL SOAR program's On the Move Workshop in 2012. This was a defining moment for me because I heard Dr. Beverly Alexander speak at the event. An alumni of UM-Dearborn and a SOAR graduate, Dr. Alexander shared how she overcame obstacles along her educational journey to earn her doctorate degree. After hearing her speak, I was inspired to return to college to complete my degree.
In August 2012, I was one of twenty men and women accepted into the SOAR program at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. SOAR supports nontraditional age students who are 25 and older in starting or returning to college to complete their first bachelor’s degree. The SOAR program provided me with encouragement, support, and resources that contributed to my academic success.
Currently, I maintain a 3.4 cumulative grade point average and I have earned multiple scholarships. My experience at UM-Dearborn has been enhanced by my involvement in the SOAR program.