MOvE: The Evolution of Strangers to Friends

Courtney Fortin, Head of Public Relations

How do you turn 30 high schoolers and 12 college students into a group of friends in less than 48 hours? Pure, wholesome fun.

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Last month, MUSIC Matters hosted its third annual Michigan Overnight Experience camp for students from Henry Ford Academy, and I was lucky enough to be a counselor for the weekend. As a member of the marketing committee, I only had a general understanding of the various social ventures MUSIC Matters has spearheaded like our student to student scholarship and community partnerships. I knew that the premise of MOvE was to emphasize the importance and accessibility of college for underprivileged high school students, and I knew that I wanted to be involved in helping to inspire them. What I didn’t know, however, was that the kids would end up equally inspiring me and all the other counselors just as much. Come Sunday evening, I was leaving MOJO with a sense of optimism and cheer after spending the weekend with some of the most ambitious, joyful kids I had ever met.

When I arrived, I had no idea what I was getting myself into it, and I was skeptical that the kids would take the weekend seriously. If high school Courtney came to Ann Arbor and spent the weekend on campus, she definitely would not have experienced even an ounce of the maturity these kids expressed; I was blown away by the bravery, confidence, and optimism from freshmen in high school. These kids courageously confessed their fears and hopes for after high school in group bonding sessions and genuinely engaged in meaningful conversations.

From Friday to Sunday, students from HFA were exposed to the U of M campus and culture while learning about themselves and discovering what their future ambitions may be. From icebreaker games that asked campers if they kept their horses in the back, exploring Ann Arbor’s graffiti alley on the night walk, or kicking a field goal on the Big House field, the entire weekend was packed with activities that ultimately helped grow friendships between the counselors and campers. It’s easy to put into words our scheduled itinerary for each day, but it’s hard to convey the conversations, laughs, and feelings that exuded from each group throughout the weekend.

Though it’s hard to fully communicate the meaningful memories MOvE provided me, the moments which really stuck out were when the campers opened up about their passions and hobbies. One girl told me that her five older siblings all dropped out of high school, and she was the last hope of going to college in her family. This same camper explained that in her free time she likes to read scholastic journals on the hole in the ozone layer and she hopes to one day conduct her own experiments. Another camper professed his love for music and explained that his dream is to be a performer one day; some of the other counselors were even lucky enough to hear a snippet of his raps. (Remember us when you’re famous, Mike!)

Ultimately yes, MOvE is about teaching young high schoolers the importance of goal-setting and being ambitious, but it’s also about getting to know people you would have never crossed paths with and growing from one another. I thought that I would be the one encouraging the students to set values for themselves and strive to achieve great things, but the truth is they did that for me. I talked to a future brain surgeon, forensic chemist, and herpetologist (the study of reptiles, and yes she had to teach me what that meant), and they had a glimmer in their eyes I wish every high schooler had. They helped me understand that ambition and compassion are not constricted by socio-economic levels, and we can all learn a little something from each other. These freshmen in high school are blunt, honest, realistic, and find joy in simple things; they are everything I strive to be. These kids instilled hope in me I didn’t know I needed. They are the future, and I feel safe with the world being in their hands soon.

MOvE overall showed me that MUSIC Matters really does care about people and takes its goals as an organization seriously. As the campers were leaving, several came up to me and said they were excited to come back next year. I think it’s safe to say I am too.