One girl bands schools together


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While many 12-year-olds spend free time having friends over for playdates, Mary Grace Henry was starting her own charitable foundation to fund girls education in Africa.
Henry, a senior at Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich, Conn., is founder of Reverse the Course Foundation and Reverse the Course LLC, a business that sells hair accessories in five states in retail stores, at holiday boutiques and on her website.
“I knew that the difference I wanted to make was to help one girl go to school,” Henry said. “I figured that would be the thing that would help her chase her dreams and be able to achieve what she wanted to achieve.”
Starting with a sewing machine and an idea to make reversible headbands, her first headbands were purchased by classmates at their school bookstore.
“Initially I didn’t think it was going to work, but when I took a batch of 50 relatively decent reversible headbands to my school bookstore, they said yes to selling them,” Henry said. “Two days later they called back and said they had sold out. I saw girls wearing them in the hallways and it was really exciting.”
Senior Claire Mohun got to know Henry in eighth grade when she came to San Francisco on reciprocal exchange and stayed with Mohun.
“She was going to try to advertise to people here,” Mohun said. “She came back a year later, went to a couple boutiques to spread the word, got them to buy a few and she started a relationship with the stores.”
Henry said attending a Network School inspired her to take action based on Goal 3, Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to a social awareness which impels to action.
“I was really inspired by the importance my school places on community service,” Henry said. “I’ve been going to Sacred Heart in Greenwich since I was in kindergarten. We would do Chapel for Uganda, Penny Walk for Uganda and different activities to raise funds for the sister school.”
Henry took it upon herself to find out more about sponsoring education and the opportunities girls do or do not have in Uganda and Kenya.
“I did a lot of research to figure out what was going on there and what barriers these girls were facing in trying to get an education,” Henry said. “I researched organizations that were working in those countries with education and more specifically girl’s education.
Henry works closely with the Maasai Girls Education Fund that sponsors tribal girl’s education.
“Each primary and secondary student has a direct sponsor that we connect them to,” Zara Bott-Goins, Executive Director of the Maasai Girls Education Fund, said.
Henry typically sponsors a girl for four years of her secondary education but can fund an additional two years to help her avoid dangerous situations.
“In Kenya girls aged 12, occasionally younger, can be forced to undergo circumcision or forced into young marriages,” Henry said. “To protect them from these practices, I have to get them into boarding schools earlier.”
Henry has visited both countries twice in the past four years, spending part of her summer break with the girls she is sponsoring.
“She’s not like a typical sponsor, she’s way more involved,” Bott-Goins said. “She really wants there to be that one on one interaction so that she can support them in a bigger way, show them what’s possible and talk to them about what’s possible.”
Henry is an ambassador for Girl Rising, a global organization dedicated to increasing girl’s education, and attended a UNICEF event in Oct. of 2013 on International Day of the Girl.
”Girl Rising is really excited about the issues that make me want to work on my business,” Henry said. “They are not only helping more girls go to school, but educating people on the issue of girl’s education.”
As her company has grown, Henry has begun working with manufacturing companies to create her accessories that she designs including special collections based on events such as International Day of the Girl. The accessories include a range of items including buttons, monogrammed bows, ponytail frills and headbands.
“I don’t make all of them anymore but I still sign every piece,” Henry said. “I am still involved directly in the production process.”
The World of Children presented Henry with the 2014 Youth Award that included a $35,000 grant for the company. Queen Latifah also donated $4,000 after Henry made an appearance on her talk show, “The Queen Latifah Show.” Reverse the Course has sold over 11,000 accessories in the past six years, funding 45 girls for a total of 115 years in school fees.
“It’s important to have businesses like Reverse the Course because it shows that you can make a difference regardless of who you are and how you do it,” Mohun said. “She started with a headband company and a sewing machine and it has grown to help so many people.”
A documentary entitled “Matumaini,” meaning hope in Swahili, telling the stories of some of the girls Henry sponsors is set to come out in December. Henry filmed for the documentary while visiting Kenya and Uganda in June.
“I really want to tell the story of these girls and the amount of hope that they have in receiving an education and making a difference in their communities despite all the difficulties that they face,” Henry said. “They don’t want your pity, they just want to be given a chance.”

Delaney Moslander
Senior Reporter

Mary Grace Henry, a senior at Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich Conn. makes and sells headbands so girls in Uganda and Kenya will have an education and safe place to learn.

Mary Grace Henry, a senior at Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich Conn. makes and sells headbands so girls in Uganda and Kenya will have an education and safe place to learn.

While many 12-year-olds spend free time having friends over for playdates, Mary Grace Henry was starting her own charitable foundation to fund girls education in Africa.

Henry, a senior at Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich, Conn., is founder of Reverse the Course Foundation and Reverse the Course LLC, a business that sells hair accessories in five states in retail stores, at holiday boutiques and on her website.

“I knew that the difference I wanted to make was to help one girl go to school,” Henry said. “I figured that would be the thing that would help her chase her dreams and be able to achieve what she wanted to achieve.”

Starting with a sewing machine and an idea to make reversible headbands, her first headbands were purchased by classmates at their school bookstore.

“Initially I didn’t think it was going to work, but when I took a batch of 50 relatively decent reversible headbands to my school bookstore, they said yes to selling them,” Henry said. “Two days later they called back and said they had sold out. I saw girls wearing them in the hallways and it was really exciting.”

Senior Claire Mohun got to know Henry in eighth grade when she came to San Francisco on reciprocal exchange and stayed with Mohun.

“She was going to try to advertise to people here,” Mohun said. “She came back a year later, went to a couple boutiques to spread the word, got them to buy a few and she started a relationship with the stores.”

Henry said attending a Network School inspired her to take action based on Goal 3, Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to a social awareness which impels to action.

“I was really inspired by the importance my school places on community service,” Henry said. “I’ve been going to Sacred Heart in Greenwich since I was in kindergarten. We would do Chapel for Uganda, Penny Walk for Uganda and different activities to raise funds for the sister school.”

Henry took it upon herself to find out more about sponsoring education and the opportunities girls do or do not have in Uganda and Kenya.

“I did a lot of research to figure out what was going on there and what barriers these girls were facing in trying to get an education,” Henry said. “I researched organizations that were working in those countries with education and more specifically girl’s education.

Henry works closely with the Maasai Girls Education Fund that sponsors tribal girl’s education.

“Each primary and secondary student has a direct sponsor that we connect them to,” Zara Bott-Goins, Executive Director of the Maasai Girls Education Fund, said.

Henry typically sponsors a girl for four years of her secondary education but can fund an additional two years to help her avoid dangerous situations.

“In Kenya girls aged 12, occasionally younger, can be forced to undergo circumcision or forced into young marriages,” Henry said. “To protect them from these practices, I have to get them into boarding schools earlier.”

Henry has visited both countries twice in the past four years, spending part of her summer break with the girls she is sponsoring.

“She’s not like a typical sponsor, she’s way more involved,” Bott-Goins said. “She really wants there to be that one on one interaction so that she can support them in a bigger way, show them what’s possible and talk to them about what’s possible.”

Henry is an ambassador for Girl Rising, a global organization dedicated to increasing girl’s education, and attended a UNICEF event in Oct. of 2013 on International Day of the Girl.

”Girl Rising is really excited about the issues that make me want to work on my business,” Henry said. “They are not only helping more girls go to school, but educating people on the issue of girl’s education.”

As her company has grown, Henry has begun working with manufacturing companies to create her accessories that she designs including special collections based on events such as International Day of the Girl. The accessories include a range of items including buttons, monogrammed bows, ponytail frills and headbands.

“I don’t make all of them anymore but I still sign every piece,” Henry said. “I am still involved directly in the production process.”

The World of Children presented Henry with the 2014 Youth Award that included a $35,000 grant for the company. Queen Latifah also donated $4,000 after Henry made an appearance on her talk show, “The Queen Latifah Show.” Reverse the Course has sold over 11,000 accessories in the past six years, funding 45 girls for a total of 115 years in school fees.

“It’s important to have businesses like Reverse the Course because it shows that you can make a difference regardless of who you are and how you do it,” Mohun said. “She started with a headband company and a sewing machine and it has grown to help so many people.”

A documentary entitled “Matumaini,” meaning hope in Swahili, telling the stories of some of the girls Henry sponsors is set to come out in December. Henry filmed for the documentary while visiting Kenya and Uganda in June.

“I really want to tell the story of these girls and the amount of hope that they have in receiving an education and making a difference in their communities despite all the difficulties that they face,” Henry said. “They don’t want your pity, they just want to be given a chance.”

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