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Jo Ann Cribbs


Sojourner Truth Girls Academy

172 W. Van Buren
Battle Creek, Michigan 49017
Children need positive role models both inside and outside their families says Jo Ann Cribbs, who oversees youth programming for the Urban League of Battle Creek. While educators play a vital, day-to-day part, Cribbs feels strongly that parents are a child’s strongest influence when it comes to education. Cribbs strives to better the lives of local children and involves parents in programming too. 
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Funding & Program Developer/Program Coordinator for Sojourner Truth Girls Academy and Future Force Jo Ann Cribbs: I can answer this question by quoting [the late American author and educator] Peter Drucker. Here’s what he had to say about leadership:

“Leadership is not a magnetic personality that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not making friends and influencing people; that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

This quote speaks directly to me. I think that leadership is all about lifting a person's vision to higher sights, just like he said. It’s about helping them set higher goals for themselves. My goal, as a leader, is to redirect our youth from their present, at-risk circumstances and to show them the possibilities of a new beginning. I use all my talents, skills, knowledge, contacts, and
The most crucial thing that could be done is for more youth programs to concentrate on literacy for the families of the youth that they are serving -- not just the children.
experiences to accomplish this goal and to make a lasting positive impression on the lives of the young people I come into contact with.    
What is your dream for kids?
My dream is that every kid has all the resources they need to thrive and succeed.

We have to prepare kids for the rigors of a demanding post-secondary curriculum and support the best and brightest as they pursue their goals. I want kids to learn that academic abilities are improvable and expandable and that working hard to gain new knowledge leads to improved performance. I want them to know that the mind does grows stronger with use. I want them to know that, over time and with continued effort, understanding difficult material will get easier. To help kids get to get to that point, we can start with the building blocks of success: strengthening their confidence, increasing their ability and broadening their outlook. That’s my dream for kids.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
The most crucial thing that could be done is for more youth programs to concentrate on literacy for the families of the youth that they are serving -- not just the children. We have always done it; our emphasis here has always been on family, and the reason behind that is very simple: study after study shows us that a child’s family, home and community are the true drivers behind that child’s education.
Family income and a mother’s lack of education are the two biggest risk factors that hamper a child’s early learning and development; we believe parents can be empowered in, engaged in, and responsible for the victorious completion of their child’s education. When we focus on that, we are helping the people who are most at risk of failure economically, emotionally and socially.
I can’t stress enough how essential parental advocacy and literacy is essential to a child’s success in today’s economy. I find that the family literacy approach really harnesses the strength of parent-child bonds for two reasons: literacy is at the root of a person’s ability to succeed, but the family is the heart of that success.   

How do you know you’re making progress?
I know I’m making progress when we have a waiting list for program involvement and when I see the enthusiastic, eager
I am proud of the fact that I am in the fight to prove that girls and science do mix; our program sparks curiosity and fosters a lifelong interest in technology and science.
faces of our program participants. I also know that I’m making progress when I hear positive feedback from parents and teachers. When funders continue to support programming - well, that’s progress.
Also, when other schools express an interest in a Sojourner Truth Girls Academy site at their location. When the youth and families in our programs achieve the successes we expect with increased engagement in academics, social experiences, and involvement in family life, we are making progress and helping to foster success.

What are you most proud of?  
The Sojourner Truth Girls Academy. It is designed to help girls address their own personal issues, like home life and their education. We help them increase their participation in science, and expand their opportunities in and influence on the science and technology workforce.  
I am proud of the fact that I am in the fight to prove that girls and science do mix; our program sparks curiosity and fosters a lifelong interest in technology and science.
Here at the Urban League of Battle Creek, we want to position young ladies to be at the cutting edge of scientific discovery and technological innovation, and we do it by inspiring them to have a better grasp of scientific concepts. We help teach them to expand their minds and thoughts about their futures. We encourage them to pursue careers in science.

What perceptions or historical influences create the most significant obstacles to engaging Michigan citizens in helping vulnerable children? How are you doing your part to help abolish these barriers?
The biggest historical influence or perception that I see creating significant obstacles to engaging citizens to help is having a “those people” mentality. I had it myself. One day, I was reading about the latest act of violence in the community, and I made a negative comment about “those kids.”  A friend asked me what I was doing to help the situation. His challenge caused me to take a look at the woman in the mirror.  
What was I doing to help? What more could I do to help? So, I started by volunteering for the Urban League of Battle Creek because its main focus is youth development, and I have a passion for youth, and I want to help them. I do my part by continually seeking funding and recruiting family members, friends, businesses, and organizations to step up and help.
It really does takes a village to raise a child, and I believe that this ancient African proverb is the eternal truth. Education is everyone’s business, because in order for a society to actively function, its citizens must be educated and informed.
Our future depends on our community’s commitment to producing successful children with the ability and the desire to learn. I believe that an enriched learning environment and highly engaging instruction can change students and improve their lives. 
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Program Profile


  • Urban League of Battle Creek
    To provide educational development, economic development, cultural enrichment and health programs to empower youth and their families.  


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