A Northern Michigan University student raised $2,000 to support Marquette Alternative High School’s planned all-female trip to Washington, D.C. as part of its “She Believed” program. Brooke Baily, a special education major from Barrington, Ill., was inspired after only two visits to the school to launch an online crowd-funding campaign while home over NMU’s winter break. She did it unbeknownst to MAHS staff. More than 60 family members or friends with no connection to Marquette either contributed to the campaign or shared it on social media.
“I fell in love with the school and wanted to help in any way I could,” said Baily. “I went to different schools as part of a class at Northern. The [MAHS] environment made such an impression on me. Many students come from difficult family situations, but there are 100 people there who have each other’s backs no matter what. I couldn’t say that about my high school. Watching people contribute to something they weren’t familiar with, especially around the holidays when many are strapped for money, restored my faith in humanity.”
Baily’s passion for helping special needs students took root in kindergarten, when she befriended a girl with autism. The two remain close as Baily pursues a career in the field. She observed MAHS teacher Nora Torreano’s class once for an assignment, then returned by choice to help students with homework and their monthly can drive that raises money for the trip. The combined experience convinced Baily to change her academic specialty from cognitive impairment to emotional impairment. It also motivated her “above and beyond the call” gesture of generosity. She returned to NMU in January and delivered a check to MAHS.
“Brooke was really nonchalant about it,” Torreano said. “She talked a little bit about the courses she was taking this semester, then handed me an envelope and said she went home over break and asked friends and family for donations. I walked her out without opening it, but when I went to the office and realized there was a $2,000 check inside, I ran outside again to thank her. It was a complete surprise and blew me away. When someone thinks so much of the students at a place she hasn’t spent much time, it validates that what we’re doing here is important.”
The MAHS “She Believed” program is designed to address self-esteem issues and absenteeism. It is built around three themes: improving, providing and supporting wellness; career and college preparation through education; and healthy habits. The Washington, D.C. trip will be the culminating activity.
“I went to D.C. in 8th grade,” Baily said. “Where I grew up, in an urban area where raising money wasn’t as big of an issue, trips like that were more common. But this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students at MAHS. Some have never been out of the U.P. before. I just wanted to help them be able to experience that because it’s such a learning and growing opportunity.”