MEDINA – Kids got to play a giant Candy Land game, dip marshmallows in a chocolate fountain, cool off with a snow cone or squirt from the water park and see their hard work pay off with the performance of their own rap songs at the annual Let’s Make a Difference picnic Aug. 4.
The Kandee Land Karnival at Ray Mellert Park culminated a summertime enrichment program for kids in the Union Square housing community that includes character development activities, field trips, academic enrichment, arts and crafts and games.
The program is supported by local businesses, churches and organizations and is led by volunteers, many of whom were on hand Saturday to lead games and hand out treats.
Let’s Make a Difference is led by Michelle Powell, whose son, Malik Tuck, 25, and his friend, Hunter Heaton, 27, spoke to the kids to tell them to work hard in school. If they persevere, they said, they can overcome difficulties and be successful.
Tuck, who graduated in May from The Ohio State University with a degree in strategic communications, said he learned in high school that he could achieve his dreams if he “turned my fears into my focus” and worked hard. After being cut from the ninth-grade basketball team, he said, “I went home and cried to my mom a little, I won’t lie.” But he worked hard at improving his skills, and he made the team the following year.
“Instead of being afraid, I turned it into a dream of mine,” Tuck said.
After being accepted into OSU, he said, he was afraid he wasn’t good enough and wound up on academic probation. He committed to going to studying more, and he graduated with a 2.7 grade-point average.
“Make sure the friends you have are encouraging you,” Tuck told the kids. “Make sure you’re keeping good people around you. Study hard and make some good friends.”
Heaton, a 2010 graduate of Medina High School, said he was put on an IEP (individualized education program) when he was in the third grade and never expected to go to college. He earned multiple awards as a top cross-country athlete, and three times was named an All-Ohio runner, but he struggled in school. Eventually, he committed to his education, overcame challenges and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Oklahoma and a master’s in educational leadership from Ashland University.
“Someone else’s opinion of you does not have to be your reality,” he said.
Powell, who founded the organization 18 years ago to provide positive enrichment for low-income children in Medina, said the theme emphasized that what matters is who God says we are, not what others say.
“We need to speak life into our kids,” she said. “That’s what today is all about. It’s not about IQ or IEP. It’s about determination and how bad to you want it.”
Submitted by JENNIFER WEBB