Eastern Michigan University and Ypsilanti Community Schools collaborate to deliver gift boxes of fun games and activities to district students and families

Ypsilanti student receives a gift box

YPSILANTI – Eastern Michigan University faculty and staff and Ypsilanti Community Schools have partnered to deliver special “You Matter” boxes to students and families in the district during the COVID-19 pandemic.

detail of gift box
A personalized photo along with books, brain teasers, games, snacks and more fill the gift boxes for YCS students.  

The packages come from the Making Youth Matter Mentoring Program, which is a partnership between the EMU School of Social Work and Ypsilanti Community Schools.

“We normally mark the end of the MYMMP with a big, end-of-the-year celebration for the EMU student mentors and YCS student mentees, but COVID-19 halted these plans,” said Celeste Hawkins, a professor of social work at Eastern who organized the program with fellow social work professor Sarah VanZoernen five years ago. “Since the year ended so abruptly, we wanted to get creative about how we could celebrate our wonderful YCS students and came up with the idea for the "You Matter" boxes.” 

The "You Matter" boxes were filled with a personalized framed photo of the EMU mentor and YCS mentee, along with books, brain teasers, board games (such as Monopoly, Sorry, Connect Four, and Uno), coloring books, soccer balls, basketballs, footballs, journals, and the YCS students' favorite snacks.  

“There was excitement and sheer joy on the students' and families' faces when the boxes were delivered,” Hawkins says. “This was our small way of brightening their day and saying ‘thank you’ for being part of our program.”

Hawkins thanked the Engage@EMU office, which helped by providing $200 to support the project.   

In addition to the intensive one-one-one mentoring provided to YCS students in middle school, the program has also provided academic support to more than 75 elementary school students each week through an after-school reading and math support program.

EMU students also support and participate in Restorative Practices adopted by the district. Since the program’s inception, EMU students have provided more than 10,000 hours of service to support Ypsilanti Community School students.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves nearly 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

June 17, 2020

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom