Educating the minds and bodies of Detroit’s youth was Adams-Lawton’s choice
At the end of the 2007-2008 school year, Maria Adams-Lawton had an important choice to make, and she relied on the same multiplication skills she taught in her classroom to make a life-changing decision. .
“It was a choice between touching the lives of 30 students at once in a classroom or having a chance to positively impact 3,000 lives,” Adams-Lawton said, while explaining how she went about from teaching fourth-grade math at the Golightly Education Center to turn her full attention to Healthy Kidz Inc., a nonprofit organization she had started three years earlier. “Speaking out and giving as many children as possible positive opportunities is what this is all about because you never know what door it will open.”
To be clear, Adams-Lawton “enjoyed” her time at Golightly, a Detroit public school in Midtown, where Adams-Lawton worked for 25 years starting as a paraprofessional when she was a co-op student at Wayne State University. . In fact, because Adams-Lawton so desperately wanted elementary school students in Golightly to get a comprehensive education — mind and body — the veteran math teacher turned her designated prep hours into outdoor playtime for the kids. who didn’t have a gym class.
This action would lead to more action.
“When I started taking the kids outside during school hours, I taught them all the games I grew up in, like kickball and soccer,” said Adams-Lawton, 55. “Then one day a student asked if we could play football after school, then football led to baseball and soccer and other after school sports and activities. Word got out and other schools started calling and they started sending their kids. I looked up and we had about 200 kids in our after school program and we were still hearing from other schools and parents across town.
What started on the grounds of Golightly continues today, as evidenced by the outdoor adventure camp What’s Good In My Hood, which started on Monday for around 150 children aged 4 to 14 at the Tindal Recreation Center (10301 W. Seven Mile), where Healthy Kidz Inc. is headquartered. Monday through Friday, up to 10 hours a day, for eight consecutive weeks, camp participants will be engaged in a range of activities, including arts and crafts; Dance; drama; Dodgeball ; kickball; Martial Arts; flag football; educational enrichment activities, such as Friday’s field trip to Imagination station in Toledo; and more. Through all the games and activities she participated in at the camp that took on a new name in 2021, Adams-Lawton says she never stopped being an educator.
“We say ‘the great outdoors,’ and I truly believe you can learn so much outdoors,” said Adams-Lawton, who thanked her grandmother Georgia Adams and great-grandmother Rochelle Redd, for giving her experiences that made her an “outsider”. girl,” while growing up in the Russell Woods neighborhood of Detroit. “With this camp, I’m going old-fashioned and trying to emulate the experiences I had growing up. In the past, I’ve had the kids do a neighborhood scavenger hunt and they have had to take pictures to prove they had found all they had left. They took naps in tents, but first pitched the tent themselves. They study trees, acorns and leaves and learn how things grow, and we lay on our backs and talked about the clouds.
“It’s about getting kids thinking and that applies to outdoor camping activities as well. Kids love s’mores, but to make them, they need to figure out which sticks work best for starting a fire. Also, rolling a sleeping bag is an art in itself, which requires practice and thought.
With support from the Michigan Department of Education and Detroit’s Old Newsboys Goodfellow Fund, Adams-Lawton says his camp was more accessible to young people in Detroit this summer, and greater accessibility included awarding scholarships. which enabled 35 scholarship holders to attend this free year-long camp. On Wednesday, a grateful Adams-Lawton revealed that it wasn’t the first time her community had come to her aid.
“He changed my life,” Adams-Lawton said Wednesday, referring to former UAW-Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles, who after meeting Adams-Lawton for the first time after securing a deal to manage the 15-year operations (during the summer of 2015) to run Tindal, challenged her to “dream bigger” and then led a UAW-Ford effort to help renovate the center.
Kathy Bridge, Sue Norander, Thomas Wilcher and Joshua Hughes were also game changers for Adams-Lawton. Bridge and Norander, leaders of the City of Detroit’s recreation department, provided advice and encouragement to Adams-Lawton, as she twice submitted a sweeping development plan for the then-closed and gravely-closed Robert Tindal Recreation Center. neglected. Wilcher, during the same period he coached one of the top high school football teams in the state at Cass Tech, accompanied a bus full of his players to Tindal, where those players manually collected the floor tiles defective from the gymnasium floor to make way for a new floor – and a new beginning – in the center. And then there was Hughes, who may not be as well-known in the community as the others Adams-Lawton hires, but he’s certainly just as well-liked by her.
“Joshua Hughes is a young man who was part of the DNR (Department of Michigan) Youth Summer Employment Program (Department of Natural Resources) and he was with me when I entered Tindal after accepting my business plan,” Adams-Lawton recalls. “There was so much water in the building. I had water on my good shoes and tears in my eyes, and I said, “Guys, I can’t do this; I have to call the city of Detroit and tell them that’s not gonna happen. And Joshua said, ‘Ms. L, it’s your dream and we support you!’ These boys worked day in and day out, from sunrise to sunset, helping me restore the building to public use. Joshua, and everyone who helped me during those days, they made my dream come true.
But Adams-Lawton said his “dream” alongside Detroit’s youth over the past seven years hasn’t been tied to much sleep.
“I haven’t slept a whole night since the day we started fixing Tindal,” said Adams-Lawton, who also runs a Michigan DNR youth summer employment program for 16-19 year olds. years in Tindal through his non-profit organization. “I was a teacher, so I used to have weekends and holidays, and summer and evenings, but now I’m never off.”
Thursday afternoon at Robert C. Gmeiner Park (around Tindal), a place where Adams-Lawton did some of his best outdoor work teaching and inspiring neighborhood summer campers, two beneficiaries of his work expressed their appreciation for someone who is apparently always on for kids.
“You can see my smile, even through this mask, because it’s a joy for me to be here and I want to bring the fun back to our kids over the summer,” said camp co-director Aurion Brown, 23, the pride of nearby 6 Mile and Hubbell and a proud graduate of Central Michigan University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in child development. “I’ve known Ms. Lawton since I was 5 years old, playing soccer for her, and was a camper in this program going back to when it was called Summer Jam Day Camp. I watch these kids as they dance and sing and it brings me back to when I was part of those times and the fun I had at this camp meeting kids from other schools and hanging out with the monitors. And now I’m able to build on Mrs. Lawton’s legacy, which is a teaching legacy, because from little ages to old ages, from day one to day one, it’s always a learning moment. .
And with the Adams-Lawton brand of learning, “loving” bonds are also formed, as fellow camp co-director Jaylen Hayden explained.
“I’ve always loved this camp and I’ve always loved Ms Lawton,” said Hayden, 26, who promised on Thursday that within two weeks passers-by near Gmeiner Park will be able to smell burgers, potatoes earth roasts and ‘s mores as prepared by campers under his supervision. “When I was at school I loved how Mrs Lawton always took us on field trips when we had half days. So now it’s amazing and a great pleasure to be able to do what she did for me for the kids at this camp.
Scott Talley is a native Detroiter, a proud product of Detroit Public Schools, and a lover of Detroit culture in all its forms. On his second tour with Free Press, which he grew up reading as a child, he is thrilled and humbled to cover the city’s neighborhoods and the many interesting people who define its various communities. Contact him at: [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @STalleyfreep. For more on Scott’s stories, visit www.freep.com/mosaic/detroit-is/.