You would never know it if you had watched her deliver her “Break Every Chain” essay to volunteers at Macomb’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service luncheon on Jan. 19, but Kamaria Norwood was “so timid” when she attended high school in Detroit.
“I was quiet, and so I was picked on,” relates the 20-year-old, “which only made me shier.”
That changed almost immediately after starting classes at Macomb. She found herself in a “pleasant” environment with “great teachers” and built her grade point average up to nearly 3.5. She was also approved for a work-study assignment with Charles Muwonge, director of Special Projects at Macomb. Among those projects is a peer mentoring program, and Norwood has given back as much as she has received.
“After being mentored myself, I became a peer mentor, and that really brought me out of my shell,” says Norwood. “It helped me build my self-esteem.”
To earn the honor of addressing volunteers at the luncheon, Norwood wrote the winning essay in the annual MLK Day competition opened to Macomb students. Before writing, she turned to her mom for advice on getting started and was gently directed to read King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail.
“What Martin Luther King did was not an easy task, but he was able to pull out a miracle for me and future generations,” wrote Norwood in her essay. “What I learned is anything is possible. As long as I try and keep believing in myself, nothing can stand in my way.”
Both Norwood’s mom and grandfather were in the audience when she read those words. Volunteering with her earlier that day was little sister Halo. They joined others at South Campus to write letters of gratitude to active duty military and craft homemade dog toys for the Michigan Humane Society. While it was the first time that Norwood volunteered for the MLK Day of Service, she has given her time to Children’s Hospital in the past and has helped out at Student Life and Leadership activities on campus.
“It’s been great to get involved and meet new people,” says the once timid Norwood, who appreciates the new perspective on social activism that her research on Dr. King has given her. “I never took time out to think about what people like Dr. King did for me.”
Norwood will graduate with an associate degree in general studies next year. She plans to transfer to Central Michigan University’s main campus in Mount Pleasant to earn a bachelor’s degree in health administration. She is excited about the prospect of living on campus, but says she will never forget the home she found at Macomb.
“I have a family here,” says Norwood. “This was a very good place to start my future.”