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Inspiration Personified

Mary, then an energetic middle schooler, never came into my Writing Block without a story in her journal, another one in her mind ready to flesh out into a full, fledged paper, and usually a couple in her brain hoping to find their way to the page. Her enthusiasm spilled over to many in the class as she often encouraged others to think through their writing topics. She found her voice several grades back in elementary school and had all The Learning Center teachers convinced she would find a way to be heard as she spread her wings into the bigger world.

Her legacy of honors started with serving as a Junior Marshal in 7th grade, then followed by recognition in the Hayesville Middle School Honors Program. Leadership skills started emerging as she took on the role of Assistant Coach in The Learning Center's Girls on the Run. By 2013 she had co-founded and served as Chief of Young Righters of Western North Carolina(YROWNC). This impressive program was designed to involve high school students in the world of writing including competitions and opportunities to be readers of their own work for public presentations.

2013 summer months found her working as an administrative assistant for Stricker Law Firm. By 2014, she won 1st Place Entrepreneur Winner through WesNet Technology Advisory Commission. This same commission award her 2nd Place Community Service winner in 2015 when Mary also graduated from Murphy High School with a 4.1 GPA, where served as Student Body vice-president, Who's Who, Superior Honors and a Danforth Award Recipient.

The energetic and motivated learner began her baccalaureate studies at North Carolina Central University immediately following high school, again finding her way into leadership as she served on NCCU's Freshman Class Council. Mary married in 2016 and continued an active college life as she served as a Honda Campus all-star challenge member, NCCU Muslim Student Association President, NCCU Spiritual Development and Dialogue-Interfaith Ambassador.

2018 proved a special time in Mary's life as she gave birth to a son. Her leadership involvement did not miss a beat. Instead she also became a weekend school administrator for North Durham Islamic Association, also a NCCU Distance Education: Student-Services Intern. By 2019, this dedicated learner added Durham volunteer roles in the both Welcome Baby and Kids Voting programs.

In 2019, Mary graduated from NCCU with a Bachelors of Arts, holding a double major in Political Science (Pre-Law) and Interdisciplinary Studies (Race, Gender and Class).

Mary came full-circle back to The Learning Center Campus in early 2020 as she shadowed our new Head-of-School, Ryan Bender. By March 2020, as for many of us, the time turned into a soul-searching year. For this young woman who comes from a long line of strong women, the pandemic moved in and touched her family in a tragically personal way.

As I reached out to interview Mary a few weeks back, I soon learned that in true phoenix style, this incredibly resilient young woman has found her next path, now serving as Legal Support Staff/Intern for the Law Office of Erika R. Bale, the Interim Director of Development for a Chapel Hill, NC Foundation, North Durham Islamic Association: weekend School Administrator and involved as a Durham Volunteer for Families Moving Forward.

A special tribute: I am currently working with a core committee dedicated to the capital campaign behind The Learning Center's PROJECT BLU SKY. Our vision has been cast: Right the Future FOR Education. Yes, I was inspired by Mary, a former Learning Center student, who later as a young high school student at Murphy High School saw the strength and the merit in using Young Righters versus Young Writers for the group of high school writers that she created some years back.

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