Academy Closure Extended

The ISM Music & Entertainment Industry Academy will remain closed until October 19th. We need just a little more time to recover from the water damage that hit us a couple of weeks ago! For the full story, see previous blog.  To help defray the costs, please reach out to Bonita at imsavingmyself@sbcglobal.net.

Thank you for your support!

Water Damage Temporarily Closes The ISM Music & Entertainment Industry Academy, But Fails to Dampen the Spirit of It’s Staff

September 28, 2015 – The ISM Music & Entertainment Industry Academy will be closed this week and next and will re-open on Monday, October 12th.  The temporary closure is due to extensive water damage caused by a water heater failure in the building.  “Unfortunately the water from upstairs found its way to our production room and damaged thousands of dollars’ worth of sensitive electronic equipment.  It also took out some of our electricity.  It’s not something anyone could have foreseen.  It was just one of those things life throws at you and you have to decide how you are going to respond”, commented marketing volunteer, Ronda Collier.  “And, we choose to respond positively”, added Assistant Director, Cindy Ehrenberg.  Ehrenberg continued “We cleaned up the water as best we could and now we wait and see what tomorrow brings.”   “We are not defeated” said executive director, Bonita Mitchell. “Although, it sometimes seems like we take two steps forward and one step back, we continue to persevere and move forward.  Today, we are counting our blessings.  In the face of a slight disaster, we choose to focus on the amazing.  For one thing, there is usually no one in the office on Monday Mornings and, it just so happens that Cindy was here interviewing two potential MSW interns from Western Michigan University, when the water began gushing out of the ceiling (both candidates jumped into action to help).  Second, Cindy reached Ronda to come help when Ronda is usually working from her home in Ann Arbor on Mondays.  She was in town when we needed her most.  How awesome is that?” quipped Mitchell.  “We are just going to do our best and see what God does next”, she promised.

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The facility located in the basement of The Salvation Army Building in Benton Harbor had recently been remodeled thanks to First Church of God of St. Joseph, The Bridge Academy and Fresh Décor Pro Hardware both located in Benton Harbor and YouthWorks from Minneapolis, MN.  In addition to the equipment loss, the new wood floor in the production room was also a loss.  “We continue to be incredibly grateful to The Salvation Army for the space they have allowed us to use and to those who helped give it a facelift.  We know their work was not in vain,” said Mitchell.  “We will continue to walk in our purpose.”

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Core Team Exposure – Grand Rapids Trip

On Friday, July 24, ISM had the opportunity to bring a group of 16 core kids to Grand Rapids for a college visit and culture venue tour. We spent the morning at Frederik Meijer Gardens which is one of the top “30 must-see museums” and has quickly become one of the most significant sculpture experiences in the midwest. Having a limited amount of time, we would love to go back as a group to see more of the gardens and parks; and to utilize the performance stage we found – our group of dancers had loads of fun performing on a whim for other people touring.

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Visiting Calvin College was another highlight of our trip. Since this was the first time most of the students have been exposed to the idea of college, the tour was truly transformative. We could not have a better fit for our meeting with an admissions counselor; the kids were able to connect with him on multiple levels which peaked their interest even more. Everyone’s favorite part of the campus tour was the dance studio and program. Immediately upon walking into the dance room, every student ran up to the mirrors to see themselves perform. We were able to put on some music and practice as if they were in a dance class – our kids are so talented and charismatic they were able to get the tour leaders to join in!

The day was filled with on-the-spot performances which lasted the whole way back to Benton Harbor. Our kids sure know how to have fun and use their talents in any situation. We are looking forward to another opportunity for a college visit – although at least four of our students have already exclaimed that they are going to attend Calvin in the future. We are thankful for the impact such a simple trip can make!

That Motown Magic

A group portraying The Temptations performs Thursday at Montessori Academy at Henry C. Morton in Benton Harbor for the school’s Motown Review: The Influence of Music in African American History. The performers are, from left, Jamarion Lee, Kemonte Conley, Jordan Harvey, Jabari Lee and Mason Gulley

 

The following story by Louise Wrege was published in the August 14th issue of the Herald Palladium:

BENTON HARBOR – Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson – well, in a sense – were just a few of the personalities lighting up the stage Thursday at Montessori Academy at Henry C. Morton in Benton Harbor.

The were performing for the school’s Motown Review: The Influence of Music in African American History.

DianaRoss                                                            Tiara Roseburgh as Diana Ross

Organizer Bonita Mitchell said some of the children were nervous because it was their first time on stage.

“But guess what – they’re now addicted to the stage,” she told the audience of more than 200 before the performance.

The review not only showcased talent, but how much the students learned during the school’s five-week summer enrichment program. She said music and the arts were used to make the students want to attend summer school, where they not only researched the legendary music label founded in Detroit, but wrote about it.

“We worked on the history of Motown,” she said. “It’s all about making good choices and feeling good enough about yourself that you’re not going to let depression drive you and your behavior.”

And she said it worked. She said attendance during summer school was high.

Mitchell said she wants to empower the students to move beyond their environments.

“Write about how you’re feeling. Sing about how you’re feeling. We can start to advocate things that are really going to change the minds and the hearts of people,” she said.

She said the students need an outlet for their emotions.

“Most of these kids are dealing with so much pressure in their homes,” she said. “The stabilizer is being able to give them a tool or identify in them something they’re good at.”

SWonder                                           Daniel Jackson (with Bonita Mitchell) as Little Stevie Wonder

Thursday’s performance included students from Morton Montessori and from the ISM Music & Entertainment Industry Academy. Mitchell founded I’m Saving Myself 15 years ago to give children a reason to abstain from risky behaviors. She said she opened the new academy the second week in July at the Benton Harbor Salvation Army.

“It’s going to highlight every area of the music industry. It’s going to nurture the talent,” she said. “… And it’s a family environment with singing and a recording studio and dance studio. We’re driving the content to strategically start to help people understand that we’re all going through something, but if we all can unite in love, it can change things.”

She said the students will be writing songs, producing music videos, making preproduction movies and learning radio skills at the academy.

Mitchell said the dance studio will be completed in October and the radio studio is slated to be done by the end of November.

For more information, visit www.imsavingmyself.org, call 934-7764, or email imsavingmyself@sbcglobal.net.

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This was the second Motown Review that Mitchell helped to put together in Benton Harbor this summer. The first one on Aug. 2 involved incoming freshmen at Benton Harbor High School.

She said both programs were paid for by School Improvement Grants that the district received from the state for the 2014-15 school year.

At a presentation before the Benton Harbor school board on Tuesday, high school social studies teacher Marilyn Ross-Golden said the Black History Committee at the high school was asked to put the program together.

“We took it very seriously because we know that our ninth graders coming to the high school are scared,” she said.

The students took part in four classes, cultural media, music appreciation, civil rights and cultural connections, said Elnora Gavin, the high school’s business management teacher.

I’m Saving Myself (ISM) Graduates Are Living Proof of the Benton Harbor-Based Nonprofit’s Effectiveness

The Nonprofit organization I’m Saving Myself (ISM) has proven it can do what it set out to do and more.  The proof is in an old metal file cabinet (the kind you rarely see today outside of antique stores and old movies) located in their basement-level offices in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  In it, is a list of files kept safe, lovingly and, for the most part and until now, quietly and away from the rest of the world.  These files contain the names and the life stories of dozens of young people who were each walking a path of low self-esteem and self-destruction without hope of a bright and happy future … names like Deavondre Jones, Katie Giguere, Michelle Brooks, Jessica Williams, just to name a few.   Students who were hurting, but instead of wallowing in self-pity, they decided to take complete control of their lives and embrace their purpose.

This same file cabinet also holds the dreams of Bonita Mitchell, a native of Southwest Michigan and the founder and executive director of ISM.   A fan of the legendary Stevie Wonder from the age of 5, she couldn’t have imagined that she would one day become his wardrobe consultant and travel the world with Mr. Wonder, inspiring those inside his team of band members and background singers.  “I felt so blessed to have my dreams come true, but when I came home, I was saddened to see such a lack of hope and dreaming in the youth of Southwest Michigan.  I had to come back and teach them their own value and that, not only can they dream, but that those dreams can come true, just like mine did!”  Now, her dreams have changed, but they are still coming true because now, she’s giving kids the tools to make healthy choices through what she knows and loves best … music and the performing arts.

website_44                                                          Deavondre Jones with ISM executive director, Bonita Mitchell (right) and ISM employee, Gloria Taylor

And they are responding … by rejecting risky behavior and negative self talk, by embracing education and by creating their own paths and their own success stories.  Stories that will make you cry tears of sadness and then, tears of joy.  Stories like that of Deavondre Jones, who witnessed his brother being shot, critically wounded and changed forever.  Deavondre became his brother’s primary caretaker only to suffer loss again at his brother’s unexpected passing.  “Deavondre came to us a very angry eighth-grader”, remarks Bonita.  “But”, she continued, “He loved to dance and when we uncovered that, I knew we could turn this kid around.”  She explains: “You see, we are not a music organization, we are a behavioral health organization.  We help build self-esteem which can help prevent mental health issues like anxiety and depression.  Music and the performing arts are just the vehicles we use to administer our healing.  The music is what draws the kids in.”

Deavondre thrived.  He went from being homeless to graduating from a junior college to attending Columbia College in Chicago on a President’s scholarship and representing the student body on Columbia’s board of Trustees.  Most impressively, in 2013, he introduced the concept of DanceSpire – mixing performance art and motivational speaking to deliver inspirational messages. Through live performances and online videos, DanceSpire promotes the values of fearlessness, consistency and education. As it states on the homepage of the website, “DanceSpire challenges categorical thinking and believes that any idea, regardless of someone’s age, is possible. We just happen to express it in a really cool way.”

Michelle Brooks was molested at the age of 8 by a family friend and had attempted suicide three times when she experienced ISM and discovered that she could rise above her environment, overcome her shyness and sing.  She was named the organization’s first Diamond in the Rough (raw talent to be nurtured) and it changed her life.  As she puts it “… college was but a dream that most teenagers like me never see come true.  The I’m Saving Myself organization helped me transition from high school to college …  If it wasn’t for the ISM organization, I probably would be another statistic or a product of my environment. ” Now, she has become the first college graduate in her family and, she still sings!  Michelle lives in Dallas, TX …  She takes every opportunity to talk with kids about her experience and how they, too, can overcome their circumstances.

Katie Giguere was a shy, bullied teenager when she first met Bonita Mitchell and became part of the I’m Saving Myself Program.  She went on to have her recordings reach number five on the Christian record charts and became a published author of the book titled, Being the Fat Girl, which chronicles her story of overcoming low self-esteem and bullying.

An ISM participant heard Katie sing the song titled I’m Saving Myself at one of the organization’s school program culmination concerts and it inspired him to give up his very detailed plan to take his own life.  Although the song was about sexual abstinence, he interpreted it as saving himself from his circumstances and made a conscious decision to live!  He, in turn, inspired the organization to expand the meaning of the organization’s name from meaning avoiding pre-marital sex to avoiding all destructive behaviors.  And the inspiration lives on.

Benton Harbor Based Nonprofit Announces Grand Opening and Program Re-Launch

 

 The Benton Harbor, Michigan-based nonprofit organization, I’m Saving Myself (ISM), has announced the opening of a new ISM Music & Entertainment Industry Academy.  The facility is being developed to build self-esteem in the local youth.  It will house a recording studio, a dance studio, a green-screen music video room and musical instruction rooms.  It is located within The Salvation Army B Building at 233 Michigan Street in downtown Benton Harbor Classes at the academy will include vocal, music, dance, and drama lessons, training in technical aspects of the music industry, and focused workshops on a variety of topics. Students will learn to write their own music and lyrics, and how to make their own CDs in the recording studio housed at the Academy.  Students will also perform in a culmination event at the end of the school year. The positive abstinence from all risky behavior message is laced throughout all of the classes and workshops.

The Academy will be up and running beginning July 6th with the re-launching of the popular  “Core Kids” Program which includes kids with a special enthusiasm and need for the work done there.  ISM mentors these core kids in their chosen venue within the music industry (vocals, lyric-writing, musical instruments, dance, concert stage production, recording or music/video production) and gives them “hands-on” experience in order to help them find their talents and purpose, exposes them to new experiences in order to show them new possibilities for their lives and teaches them high behavior standards which they, in turn, use as peer mentors to help assimilate kids in the more densely populated school and academy programsThe academy has the purpose of creating an environment where kids can express themselves in a healthy manner and learn healthy behaviors all while honing their God-given musical talent.

What’s not changing is the leadership coming from the executive director position.  Bonita Mitchell remains the powerhouse behind the ISM organization and brand.  Mitchell, who founded the organization in 2001 to encourage kids in Berrien County, Michigan to abstain from risky behaviors like drug use, premarital sex, suicide, bullying and other violent acts, remarks “The biggest change is that it’s no longer me trying to do everything on my own.”  She explained, “Not only was I getting worn out, I also realized that the organization needed to grow and, although I had the vision, I was missing many of the skills needed to take the organization to the next level.”  To find those skills, Mitchell simply needed to go home.  She reached out to some of her classmates from her days at near-by Eau Claire High School and found them searching and eager for a way to give back to the Southwest Michigan area.  “Who could say no to such a wonderful cause that has made such a huge difference in our community?”, asked Becky Bennett, President & CEO–Entrepreneur Success, Inc. & Royalties, Inc., who will serve as the organization’s chief financial officer.  Bennett, who earned a B.A. with an emphasis on Accounting from Mercer University, Macon, GA, was further motivated by the fact that the organization was launched at her beloved Eau Claire High School after a popular star athlete took his own life.  “While I was originally focused on giving back to my own small community, I realized this organization does that and then some.  Until Bonita educated me about the alarming rate at which our young people were attempting to take their own lives, I had no idea what a threat teen suicide was to our community and our future.”
Also on board is psychology student and current Eau Claire Public School employee, Robin Krugh.  Krugh has volunteered for the ISM organization for over ten years as the head of show and concert production.  “I’ve seen first-hand what a program like this can do to save lives and set young people on a positive course.”  Said Krugh.  Her main responsibility will be the administration of the ISM after-school and in-school programs, as well as working with local social workers and psychologists to understand and administer appropriate measures to the ISM programs.

Former Whirlpool Corporation marketer and graduate of the University of Notre Dame’s Master of Nonprofit Administration program, Ronda Collier, was next to sign up.  Collier will lead the marketing and public relations efforts for the organization.  “The outcomes of this organization’s work are amazing.  Kids with histories of abuse, violence and suicide attempts credit the ISM organization for the fact that they are not only contributing members of society today, but also serve as role models and mentors to other kids with similar upbringings.  Shining a light on ISM’s work is going to be tremendously fun and rewarding” commented Collier.

Cindy Ehrenberg came on board in 2015 as a volunteer, but, in the future will  help lead the team as Assistant Executive Director.  Cindy is a well-known figure in the Berrien County nonprofit sector.  She has a degree in social work and has served as a probation officer, Director of the Victim Assistance Program, Mediator for the friend of the court, Court referral coordinator with the Volunteer Center of SWMI, and, most recently as Director of Community & Volunteer Relations at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor.

Rounding out the organization as the program coordinator for the facility is Kara Reinhardt.  Kara is a recent graduate of Anderson University in Indiana and brings a wealth of knowledge with her degree in family sciences.

While the new positions begin as volunteer and part-time positions for now, a top priority of the organization will be to find capacity-building funding to allow some of the positions to be full-time paid staff members.

While the new positions remain volunteer and part-time positions for now, a top priority of the organization will be to find capacity-building funding to allow some of the positions to be full-time paid staff members.

Popular Benton Harbor Nonprofit Organization Gets a Facelift

 

The I’m Saving Myself (ISM) nonprofit organization will be showing off it’s newly decorated and professionally-outfitted digs in an open house later this year.  The recent renovations are a product of the volunteer efforts of the First Church of God (St. Joseph, MI), Youth Works (Minneapolis, MN) and The Bridge Academy (Benton Harbor, MI), along with products from Fresh Décor Pro Hardware of Benton Harbor.  The results are a professional recording studio, a professional dance studio and a room to record music videos.  More details on the open house will be made available soon.

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The organization’s current offices, which are now being converted into these studios for young people, are located in the Salvation Army building in downtown Benton Harbor.  “Without the generosity of the Salvation Army, we would not have offices to convert.  We are very grateful to them as well as First Church, Youth Works, The Bridge Academy and Fresh Décor Pro Hardware.”  Cited ISM Executive Director, Bonita Mitchell.  While the organization will continue to have a small work area at the Salvation Army building, they have also been given office and meeting space in the offices of Entrepreneur Success, Inc. & Royalties, Inc. located on Main Street in Niles, Michigan.  Becky Bennett the CEO of Entrepreneur Success, Inc. & Royalties, Inc. also volunteers her services as the ISM CFO.  “We couldn’t be more grateful for all Becky has done for this organization.” Exclaims Mitchell.  “Her commitment has been absolutely amazing.”


 

Local Nonprofit Focused on Teens Avoiding Risky Behaviors Looking to Expand

 

 

The Benton Harbor, Michigan-based nonprofit organization, I’m Saving Myself (ISM), has announced the re-launching of the organization with an expanded staff.  What’s not changing is the leadership coming from the executive director position.  Bonita Mitchell

Bonita        Ms. Mitchell

 

remains the powerhouse behind the ISM organization and brand.  Mitchell, who founded the organization in 2001 to encourage kids in Berrien County, Michigan to abstain from risky behaviors like drug use, premarital sex, suicide, bullying and other violent acts, remarks “The biggest change is that it’s no longer me trying to do everything on my own.”  She explained, “Not only was I getting worn out, I also realized that the organization needed to grow and, although I had the vision, I was missing many of the skills needed to take the organization to the next level.”  To find those skills, Mitchell simply needed to go home.  She reached out to some of her classmates from her days at near-by Eau Claire High School and found them searching and eager for a way to give back to the Southwest Michigan area.  “Who could say no to such a wonderful cause that has made such a huge difference in our community?”, asked Becky Bennett, President & CEO–Entrepreneur Success, Inc. & Royalties, Inc., who will serve as the organization’s chief financial officer.  Bennett, who earned a B.A. with an emphasis on Accounting from Mercer University, Macon, GA, was further motivated by the fact that the organization was launched at her beloved Eau Claire High School after a popular star athlete took his own life.  “While I was originally focused on giving back to my own small community, I realized this organization does that and then some.  Until Bonita educated me about the alarming rate at which our young people were attempting to take their own lives, I had no idea what a threat teen suicide was to our community and our future.”

Also on board is psychology student and current Eau Claire Public School employee, Robin Krugh.  Krugh has volunteered for the ISM organization for over ten years as the head of show and concert production.  “I’ve seen first-hand what a program like this can do to save lives and set young people on a positive course.”  Said Krugh.  Her main responsibility will be the administration of the ISM after-school and in-school programs, as well as working with local social workers and psychologists to understand and administer appropriate measures to the ISM programs.

Former Whirlpool Corporation marketer and graduate of the University of Notre Dame’s Master of Nonprofit Administration program, Ronda Collier, was next to sign up.  Collier will lead the marketing and public relations efforts for the organization.  “The outcomes of this organization’s work are amazing.  Kids with histories of abuse, violence and suicide attempts credit the ISM organization for the fact that they are not only contributing members of society today, but also serve as role models and mentors to other kids with similar upbringings.  Shining a light on ISM’s work is going to be tremendously fun and rewarding” commented Collier.

Rounding out the organization as the manager of talent development is Brittany Leigh.  In addition to being a junior in the Music and Entertainment degree program at Full Sail University, Leigh has grown up in the entertainment industry and studied under her father, well-known music producer Derrick Leigh who represented some of the best selling artists of all time.  “I am honored and humbled to be working with such an awesome organization” said Leigh who will be leading the organization’s talent recognition and development efforts.

While the new positions remain volunteer and part-time positions for now, a top priority of the organization will be to find capacity-building funding to allow some of the positions to be full-time paid staff members.

“We have had remarkable results on a shoestring thus far”, quipped Mitchell.   “Imagine what we will accomplish when I get this powerful and passionate group as a full-time team.”

As stated, Bonita Mitchell, an accomplished recording artist in her own right whose background includes a 7-year stint as a wardrobe consultant for the great recording artist Stevie Wonder, will remain at the helm of the organization as Executive Director and Chief Visionary Officer.

Benton Harbor Michigan Based I’m Saving Myself Nonprofit Organization Garners Guidance from Chicago Health System CEO

The Benton Harbor Michigan based nonprofit organization, I’m Saving Myself (ISM) is excited to announce a new board member, Sandra Bruce, President and Chief Executive Officer of Presence Health.  ISM’s Executive Director, Bonita Mitchell said “Ms. Bruce is not only willing to share her extensive experience with us as a board member, but has also offered to guide us in our fundraising efforts.  Sandra’s expertise and contacts will help hone the fundraising skills of our organization and we are confident that we will meet our fundraising goals for the short-term needs of this organization, as well as our goal of taking our organization to financial sustainability.”

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Sandra Bruce is President and CEO of Presence Health, the largest Catholic Health System based in Illinois. Headquartered in Chicago, Presence Health was formed by the merger of Provena Health and Resurrection Health Care in November 2011.  With locations in Chicago and its collar counties as well as in East-Central Illinois, Presence Health has more than 150 locations encompassing 12 hospitals, 27 long-term care and senior residential facilities, numerous outpatient services, clinics, home health services, hospice, private duty, a comprehensive behavioral health network and an accredited university.

Sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and the Sisters of the Resurrection, Presence Health employs 22,000 people with 4,000 physicians on its medical staffs.

 Ms. Bruce has more than 35 years of experience in health care leadership. Prior to being named Presence Health’s President and CEO, she served as the President and CEO of Resurrection Health Care since November 2008. Prior to that she spent 12 years as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Trinity Health’s Saint Alphonsus Health System in Boise, Idaho.

An influential health care leader and a strong advocate for improving access to care for all, Ms. Bruce was named one of the nation’s 2011 Top 25 Women in Healthcare by Modern Healthcare magazine.  In 2014, she was named one of Chicago’s

most powerful women leaders by Crain’s Magazine, a Chicago business magazine.   In 2009, she was appointed to the Commission on a High Performance Health System (The Commonwealth Fund) to help shape health reform. She has previously served as past chair of the Board of Trustees of the Catholic Health Association of the United States and continues to be an active committee member for the national organization currently serving on the CHA’s Award Committee. She is the current Treasurer for the Illinois Hospital Association’s Board of Trustees and has served on many IHA committees over the last several years. She has also participated on various committees and councils of the American Hospital Association and is currently serving on the AHA’s Equity of Care Council.