JOYCE M. HUNTER
Several months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Hunter over coffee to learn more about our fellow Rotarian and what experiences and talents she brings to our membership. Please enjoy excerpts of our conversation, on topics such as her experience in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, her opinion on the recent search for Superintendent, the LINKS program and especially, the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County.
- Retired in 2012 after 37 years as an educator and Assistant Superintendent the AAPS
- Program Chair of the Achievement Gap Initiative for The Ann Arbor Links program.
- President of the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County
- Currently serving Rotary in the STRIVE committee
(This interview took place in May, 2013)
What is The Links Program?
The LINKS is a civic and social organization; we have about 12,000 members as well as 47 chapters within the United States and outside the US. Our program consists of International and National Trends. One of our National Trends is the Achievement Gap.
Our National Officers asked all chapters a year ago to host at least one community forum on the Achievement Gap; the achievement gap between African Americans and Caucasians. I was selected to serve as the Program Chair for the Ann Arbor Chapter. The purpose of the forums was to get the community engaged in a conversations about the Achievement Gap. The Ann Arbor Club held three forums because we wanted to not just have one conversation but multiple conversations with the goal of developing a Community Plan. The Links are partnering with Kettering Foundation which is a research organization on this issue.
I was really interested in doing this from the community’s side. The schools definitely have their role, but I always thought there was something the community could be doing as well to support achievement.
Click here to read an article discussing programs put on by The Links
What are you focusing on now?
One component is centered around literacy. We have identified a K-12 reading list, and we are going to develop a summer reading program. Our plan is to do this through the community centers. We have three community centers in a2, a couple in Ypsilanti, and we’re going to meet with them and tell them about what we’d like to see happen. We’ve identified how we’re going to track the book that the students have read because we want to get the data. The whole idea is to encourage reading during the summer. So the plan is to give each student a book of their choice at the end and whichever community center has the largest number of students participating the Links are going to give them a collection of books for their library.
What other projects are you working on with The Links?
We also have formed a partnership with Princeton Review, so we’re going to do testing strategy sessions in the fall and in the winter. We did a trial run during the second semester of last year, and now we’ve identified the dates when we’re going to be doing two sessions in the fall. It’s not going to be as extensive as someone paying $500, but there will be tests, with results and strategies.
What challenges are you facing?
I’m trying to form partnerships where it really can carry on [the work]. Sometimes you do things where you get a big grant, and when the grant is gone it’s gone. So we’re partnering with the AADL, the YDL, because they’re there, and the books are there, and the testing is already there. There will be a cost for us to buy a selection of books, to use the space for testing, but I want to be sure that there are things in place for it to carry on.
Click here to visit the Ann Arbor Chapter of the Links Program
Our Rotary Club was honored to hear you speak last year about the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County and the Underground Railroad Tours. Tell us about your work there.
When we first started working on this, around 1993-94, we got our 501(C)3 and we became a museum. Even though we didn’t have a permanent site, we begin having programs and exhibits. We called ourselves “A Museum Without Walls.” The whole idea was to really start to expand and get out beyond our immediate community and let more and more people know we were doing this work.
As we started this work, Rita and Peter Heydon of the Mosaic Foundation started to follow us. There was an article in the paper, and we got this letter in the mail from this man who we did not know. He said that they had seen the article and they thought it was great that we were doing this.
Click here to find out more about the Mosaic Foundation.
We finally met Mr. Heydon several years later. In 2008, we received a call saying that he had found a building, a site for us, and he wanted to meet with us. He’d hired an architect. So we met at the architects’ office, Mitchell and Mouat, on 4th Ave. And that’s when he told us. We didn’t have a clue that he’d been looking all these years.
So he got the house and hired the architects. I knew Dick Mitchell because he had done some work for the school system, and he’s a great guy. He and the Heydons are obviously wonderful!
Click here to see Mitchell & Mouat’s profile on Archiplanet.org
[At the meeting] they had drawings, they talked about what we needed to do, and they had this plan laid out. We had to go to city council to get the zoning and so that was like an 8 month to a year process. We had to go and go back, and [the project] was approved.
Tell us about the house?
Right now they’re working on the building on the outside. They’re restoring the original windows. [The Polhemus House was moved from 411 E Washington St, where it was built in 1848, through downtown and over the Broadway bridge to a new home at 1528 Pontiac Trail.]
Click here to view photos and information about 1528 Pontiac Trail.
I always tell the story that we didn’t have a clue that Mr. and Mrs. Heydon were trying to find a site for us. So I was driving to church one Sunday (it’s on the same side of town as my church, Bethel AME) and I remember I couldn’t go my route because they had this big house they were moving, and I was so annoyed! I was just annoyed that it was interrupting my day.
When they called and I realized it was that house I couldn’t believe it! I don’t think I’ve ever told Mr. Heydon how annoyed I was!
What are your financial goals for the Museum?
[Mr. Heydon] paid for the house and the architect, but he wanted us to have monies in place for some of the items that need to happen, to take care of it. Our first goal was to reach a $100,000 which we’ve done recently.
Click here to see how you can support the AACHM
Our next goal is to start raising money for our archival collection. That’s going to be the next big piece of it. It’s just really exciting when you think about the fact of doing something on this scale. And we have no paid staff, all volunteers. I’ve been trying to work on getting funding to maybe get a part time person to do some of the work and I’ve applied for a couple of grants. Grant writing is not easy! You do all that work and then when you don’t get it you feel disappointed.
Maybe this is an area where your Rotary connections could help?
Maybe there’s somebody that has a person they can loan, or share or, really give some help since we’re all volunteers. It would really be great to have an Administrative Assistant or Executive Director so they could take some of the things they could take off our plate. In addition, some assistance with identifying and writing grants.
We’ve never let not having a permanent site stop us from having a program. We’ve had lots of programs over the years, so many. More recently we started a series called Focus on the Arts. We wanted to highlight talent in the community but do it on more of a small scale.
Click here to read about past Focus on the Arts events and like the AACHM page on Facebook.
Switching gears to get your personal opinion of the search for AAAPS Superintendent?
I haven’t talked to anybody but what I’ve heard is that they really want to get somebody that knows the community and is connected to the community; I think that’s important.
I just value the fact that I’ve know different people in the community from all walks of life because I started as a teacher, then a building administrator, then as assistant superintendent and I’ve served a number of different advisory committees. I was on the Chamber board at one time as well as other boards. I just think that’s really important. When you have a job at one place and live in another place, to me there’s a disconnect. That’s just my opinion.
When I am out someplace and I see somebody I know, I can stop to have a conversation at the Farmer’s Market or different places, I just value that. Or students that I’ve had in the area that are now working and they see you; like I was at St. Joe’s and I had someone call my name. It was a former student and she was talking about the value she had gotten from her time with me – those kinds of things are just invaluable.
Thank you Ms. Hunter for your work and influence in our Club!
We look forward to the Underground Railroad tour and learning more about the work that Ms. Hunter has set in motion over the past decade with the African American Cultural and Historical Museum.