To say that KITA and SEND came about by extraordinary means is somewhat of an understatement. We're not talking about chance or happenstance; what has happened here and in Nigeria is nothing short of a series of miracles. The ability to move beyond crisis, to yearn for change, and to spread a message of hope comes from sincere passion for good, dedication to service, and excellence in our sphere of influence.
In 2012, Mason High School business teacher Paul Kato began establishing a residential soccer school in Nigeria, his home country. Inspired by the work, he knew in his heart that starting Kato International Training Academy (KITA) was the right thing for him to do. The whole undertaking started with a God-given conviction and has completely changed his life.
Once he established his purpose, he teamed up with his brother-in-law, Bature Bala Likoro, and they began working on the school’s mission statement and business plan. They also began picking out soccer directors and developing a board of directors for KITA in the United States and in Nigeria. With the help of Nike and Rush Soccer, they formed soccer clubs in two major cities, Kano and Kaduna, from which they would draw future students for the residential school.
Mr. Kato’s mission for the school is “to train, educate, and mold talented youth to excel on the soccer field and the classroom by establishing an academy that develops future leaders who are compassionate, ethical, and disciplined.” Mr. Kato reflected that this project has been both the toughest and most rewarding experience of his life, shaping him into a more appreciative individual and ridding him of petty values. He dreamed of impacting Mason High School students by increasing their cultural awareness and gratitude for their blessings and opportunities.
Crisis → Change → Hope
In the summer of 2011, three American students from Mason, Michigan, traveled with Mr. Kato to Nigeria, to get a glimpse of life in that part of the world. When Rachel Davis '12 returned from the trip, she felt she wanted to do something to help. Little did we know how close that wish was to coming true!
Near the end of Mason High School's first trimester, art student Mackenzie Robson '12, a good friend of Davis's, created a triptych, a piece of art with three, themed parts. Seeking to increase awareness of real-life processes, Robson's triptych entitled The Perspective of Potential brought to light three different, and yet connected, states of nature: crisis, change, and hope. When she showed her artwork to Rachel Davis and Wesley Buskirk '12, her friends encouraged her to publish it as posters, the funds of which would be donated to Mr. Kato and KITA. The three brought this idea to Mr. Lance Delbridge, principal of Mason High School, who encouraged them to think even bigger.
SEND Merchandise Committee members meet to discuss the particulars of their goods.
Around this time, Mason High School's first trimester ended and the second began, and business teacher Kristin Higgins started the first-ever Leadership B class, a class designed to give students real opportunities to lead and direct projects. Around the same time the students were tossing around ideas, Robson, Davis, and Buskirk were looking for an avenue to bring their dream to life. With Ms. Higgins's support, Robson and Davis presented their plans to aid KITA to the Lead B class. The presentation ended with the unanimous support of every student in the room. A few days later, Students Empowering Nigerian Development (SEND) was officially organized as a branch of KITA.
With student leadership as a critical quality of SEND, the first thing the excited students did was form committees based on the organization's needs. Members of the class chose which committee to work in, then nominated one person from the committee to serve as chairperson. With the committees in place, work on SEND really got going.
Outside of the classroom, technology students Wesley Buskirk and Joshua McCarty '12 developed an introductory video and the organization's official website, respectively. Robson and Davis contacted businesses in the Lansing, MI area about producing SEND's merchandise. Simple-T, a t-shirt company co-directed by Mason High School alumni Alice Hoffman '10, volunteered their services in producing the organization's t-shirts. Capital Imaging, a printing company in East Lansing, agreed to publish Robson's triptych, reformatted to be a promotional poster for SEND.
Online companies were contacted about water bottles, mugs, and other merchandise. The Mason High School Student Senate became SEND's first sponsor, pledging $2,000 to the purchase of website domain name, merchandise, and any other start-up fees. The event committe outlined a detailed "lock-in" event, a program that would both entertain and educate students. SEND starting taking shape; it was time to take to the rest of the school.
On the morning of the faculty presentation, Ms. Higgins and seniors Rachel Davis, Mackenzie Robson, and Holly Raglow get prepared.
On January 10th, 2012, SEND representatives presented to English teacher Mark Sundermann's first hour Media Studies class, as a precursor to a meeting with the staff department heads later that day. The presentation won Mr. Sundermann's full support, who is considering finding a way to merge this project's ideals with his class. With hopes high , excitement brimming, and hearts pumping, the representitives presented SEND and its mission in a brief overview to the school's Building Advisory Council. The Council provided key insights and new ideas, and thoroughly supported the project.
The next step was to bring it to the rest of the staff the next day, January 11th, 2012.
Nervous, but eager to spread the word, Mackenzie Robson, Paul Kato, Joshua McCarty, Gabriella Brown, Holly Raglow, and Rachel Davis presented KITA and SEND to the rest of the Mason High School staff. Mr. Kato explained his specific work with KITA, after which representatives from the SEND executive committees each shared their work, goals, and needs. Inspiration truly guided this presentation, as seen by the incredible support given by the staff at its close. Inspired by an earlier version of the presentation, English teacher Mark Sundermann expressed to his co-workers his amazement and excitement for KITA | SEND. Mr. Sundermann plans on incorporating KITA's work into his senior Media Studies class curriculum. Math teacher and MHS "Indoles" Talent Show adviser Steve Jackson told the presenters that he would like to donate the proceeds from the 2012 show to KITA | SEND, as much as possible. This kind of support isn't normal, and it truly testifies to the magnificent power of this project. With the staff presentation a success, students started to realize that this was fast becoming more than they had ever imagined. Without a doubt, KITA | SEND is going to be something that continues long after the end of the 2011-2012 school year...this will be a part of Mason High School, of Mason, Michigan, far into the future.
Next in Mason, with the staff on board, the SEND team worked to take it to the next level. After all, the faculty only makes up a fraction of Mason High School. The critical majority of the power in any school lies in the student body. So that's where SEND went next. On January 18th, SEND representatives traveled around the school, talking to freshman and junior homeroom classes about the project. The presenters used Wesley Buskirk's video and a PowerPoint presentation to give the students the goods on KITA, SEND, the Lock-In event, and more. A week later, on January 25th, the team made the same presentations to sophomore and senior classes. By the end of that week, everyone in the school had been contacted and knew how to be a part of this amazing project.
Now that everyone was in the know, the SEND team knew it was time to tackle what may perhaps mark a dynamic turning point in the organization. As part of the Event committee's goal, SEND put together a "school lock-in", the likes of which have never been seen before at Mason High School. Under the direction of Event Committee chair Holly Raglow '12, the SEND team talked with administrative staff, searched for volunteer chaperones, organized dozens of fun activities, designed detailed "passports" of information for student education, orchestrated intense scheduling work, filmed fun and instructional commercials to run on the MHS Studio M news, created and published advertising posters around the school, and...perhaps the most amazing thing...enlisted the support of over 200 participants by February 3rd, a week before the day of the event.
See, in order for the Lock-In to happen, at least 200 participants had to purchase a ticket. At the end of Tuesday, January 31st, we had approximately 11% of the required number of supporters; Wednesday, about 22%. Thursday, we came to around 40%. Amid feelings of near-panic and concern for whether or not the Lock-In would fly, the team persevered, faithfully trusting that all needs would be met. The morning of Friday, February 3rd dawned a chilly winter morning, and our "last-ditch effort" was in force. But there was no need to fear. During the first lunch sales, over 30 students bought tickets; second lunch, even more than that. At the end of third lunch, the total count came to...210 students! Imagine the relief and the joy that rushed through the team when we heard that! And more students continued to purchase tickets; about 250 students bought tickets to the Lock-In.
And if that wasn't enough, KITA | SEND enjoyed yet another surprise Friday afternoon. In anticipation of the Lock-In and hoping to spread the news of our work in the central Michigan area, Holly Raglow contacted several nearby news agencies. We searched the Lansing State Journal's website for contact information, and lo and behold, we have a front page story for Mason! Incredibly well-written by LSJ reporter Will Kangas, this article detailed the creation of KITA and SEND, and our current efforts to spark positive change in our sphere of influence.
With the Lock-In really happening, we iniated an even more diligent effort to make sure it went off without a hitch. SEND representatives contacted the volunteer chaperones, devised detailed maps and schedules to give to the participants, planned with school administrators, and organized lists of necessary items to bring. The week leading up to the 11th of February certainly challenged us as a team, but we succeeded in preparing effectively. SEND members sacrificed even more time by coming to the high school early to assist in the setup and management of the Lock-In's every particular detail, doing everything from shoveling snow and barricading 'do-not-enter' zones to preparing snacks and setting up big screen Wii games.
Okay, who would believe that close to 250 high school students and 50 adults would voluntarily come to school on a Saturday evening and stay there until six o’clock in the morning? Probably not very many, but that’s exactly what happened on February 11th at Mason High School. In an effort to expand our vision to more of the community, the SEND team led by the event coordinator, Holly Raglow ’12, organized and executed a fully operational school Lock-In, the first of its kind at Mason. The result of several months of preparation; countless phone calls, texts, and emails; and hours working out the tiniest of details, the Lock-In was ready to begin.
The program began with an interactive opening ceremony with Grammy Award-winning musician King Isaac, who not only preformed for the school, but had MHS students out of their seats dancing. From there, students were free to enjoy the many activities available throughout the campus, everything from ping-pong to movies to a soccer tournament and even a yoga class. The event closed with a Skype call to the vice-president of KITA, Mr. Likoro Bature and a speech from President, Mr. Paul Kato. Even teachers and chaperones commented on the quality of the organization involved. “I have a feeling that, if teachers had tried to do this, it wouldn’t have gone so smoothly,” said MHS math teacher Josh Males. This amazing project could not have happened without the support and sacrifice of so many! Thank you from the SEND team!