Kalamazoo Handmade quilts donated for Seita Scholar program

By Ursula Zerilli

Kalamazoo Gazette

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) -- Every incoming foster care youth slated to attend Western Michigan University in the fall has a homemade quilt waiting for their arrival thanks to the Kalamazoo Log Cabin Quilters.

Dozens of women paraded 106 quilts, which they spent a year creating, across the stage of the Second Reformed Church last month before sending them off with the school's Seita Scholar Program Director Chris Harris, two Department of Human Services Seita coaches and three Seita Scholar students.

The program awards former foster care youth with a full tuition and board scholarship, as well as support services. Since 2008, the number of students enrolling has grown every year, Harris said. Some 45 new students are expected in the fall, bringing the total program enrollment to about 160.

Angie Bowman, a Seita Scholar who works as Harris' assistant, told the room full of women that when she first arrived on campus in fall 2009 she didn't know what to expect. But she said she'll never forget walking into a room full of welcome packs, with supplies she never thought she needed but eventually did. Then she was told she could choose which items she wanted.

"It makes such a big difference, just giving them the choice to pick things out," said the Western Michigan University junior. "A lot of these students don't get to pick out things they like often."

The quilts came in various colors and patterns but all have the same purpose of giving new Seita Scholars something warm and personal to wrap up themselves up in when they arrive in Kalamazoo.

"They don't have anything that belongs to them, so this is something that belongs to them," said Lynne Hall, who is a member of the Log Cabin Quilters. She said the group chooses a cause to make quilts for every year. "Quilts are pretty special because they are soft; you can hug them and wrap up in them."

Harris also took time to praise the Seita Scholars who attended the event, including Mike Marotta, who has earned a 4.0 GPA, and Beatriz Jacinto, who just returned from studying abroad. He said Bowman was an example of how many Seita Scholars get involved by being peer leaders and improving the program for incoming students.

"This donation of handmade quilts really tells us that the community supports our program in a way that is very thoughtful, caring and personal," said Seita Campus Coach Ronicka Hamilton. "It tells us that they are thinking ahead to the arrival of our students, which really makes these scholars feel welcomed to the university community. We appreciate the Kalamazoo Log Cabin Quilters' donation and support."

The university is collecting new item donations for Seita Scholar welcome packs throughout the summer and is seeking working professionals to volunteer as career mentors.

Published: Wed, Jul 18, 2012

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