Convent of the Sacred Heart sophomore Mary Grace Henry recently proved that age is just a number when it comes to charity when she received a $10,000 grand prize for an educational foundation she established before she even reached high school.
Mary Grace started the foundation, Reverse the Course, in order to help fund education for young girls in Africa. Her $10,000 grand prize from Kids Who Give will now be used to further the cause by helping Maasai girls obtain an education that will lead them to a better life.
Mary Grace entered the contest, sponsored by Kids Who Give, for teenagers who start nonprofit organizations. The winning announcement was made on Tuesday, Feb. 12 after Kids Who Give conducted a final tally of the online voting for its young contestants. In the weeks leading up to the end of voting, Mary Grace conducted a widespread campaign that included her town, school and the U.S. network of Sacred Heart schools.
Mary Grace’s interest in starting Reverse the Course began after a 2009 visit to Sacred Heart’s sister school in Uganda.
“The Maasai tradition of circumcision and early marriage makes Maasai women some of the most vulnerable on earth,” she said. “Many die in childbirth, and their lives are a never-ending misery of hard, physical labor. If a husband dies, the wife becomes the property of a brother or other relative. I work through a group on the ground in Kenya. They hold seminars with village elders to help them realize the benefits of educating girls. For me to make a bigger impact, though, I needed funding for support. Now, winning this grant I can do this.
“Usually I begin working with girls trying to go to secondary school, which means I provide an average of four to six years of financial support,” Mary Grace said. “Like most things, each small step leads to another. Every year these girls stay in school increases their incomes approximately 15%, providing immediate financial support for their families. They want to become teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers and businesswomen. They will marry later, have fewer children and send those children to school, which will strengthen their communities.”