(02/11/13) - Every year during Black History Month, The Genesee District Library takes a moment to honor men, women, and organizations who are making strides in our community.
Our Portrait of Excellence series begins with honoree Tendaji Ganges.
As a college student at Antioch College in Ohio, Tendaji Ganges experienced his 'a-ha' moment.
I really found something I enjoyed doing that had a direct impact on kids that look like me, that talk like me, the kids that came from the ghettos bayous, etc. I really enjoyed having the ability, however small at that time, to make a difference," Ganges said.
The one-time aspiring writer now had his sights set on a different path - one of becoming a 'difference maker,' a 'change agent.'
"I kept looking for what I should study to prepare me to do a good job, I bounced around in psychology, sociology, you know, all the ologies- until I finally landed in education, secondary education," he said.
The New Jersey native spent several years carving a niche for himself in educational opportunity programs on college campuses across the Midwest.
"My primary focus had always been preparing young people for college and getting them through college," he said.
Today, Tendaji is the executive director of the University of Michigan-Flint Office of Education Opportunity Initiatives. A program he built from the ground up more than 15 years ago. On average, about 2,000 pre-college and college students are enrolled in the 10 programs under the initiative. He and his staff concentrate a lot of their efforts on helping students find their motivation.
"Motivation that can keep you working and studying into the wee hours, something that can make you work past, 'I don't know' and 'I can't', to 'yes I got this,'" he said.
He reflects back on he was pushed to find his own motivation.
"I was blessed to have people around me to encourage me, who challenged me, who even dared me to try do so much more than what I have ever done before," he said.
What was given to him, he passes down to the students. And nothing brings him greater joy than seeing a student pay it forward.
"Here is a sophomore college student who has already been through the pre-college program and helping another student find their internal motivation and challenging them. You say, 'that's it, you got it' - that's it, that's the success," he said.
The Genesee District Library will honor Tendaji Ganges this Saturday at its annual Black History Month Brunch. The event is sold out.
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