Public Charter School: University Prep Academy
Public Charter School Location: Detroit
Authorizer: Grand Valley State University
Sharalle Richardson is a 2008 graduate of University Preparatory Academy in Detroit, and the founder of Mirror Me Images, a Grand Rapids community organization established to assure identity and inspire destiny in girls globally, through education, empowerment, and mentoring.
She leads a team of 13 dedicated volunteers who teach a unique and inspiring curriculum throughout west Michigan. Under Richardson’s leadership, Mirror Me also makes available an annual Mother-Daughter empowerment event called You Are Enough.
Richardson credits University Preparatory Academy (and its authorizer, Grand Valley State University) with providing her the education, relationships, accountability and support that helped make her a community leader in west Michigan.
“University Preparatory Academy meant long lasting friendships, accountability, and eternal support,” says Richardson. “It introduced me to friends that I would now call sisters. We met at 11 years old, started organizations together, and experienced life from college graduations also seeing each other through marriages and children.”
She also credits public school teachers at U Prep for their commitment to her success.
“Middle school introduced me to Wil Seegars, and in high school I met Cassie Williams--two of my most influential teachers,” says Richardson. “They were extremely tough, but pulled things out of me that I would have never thought was inside. Even still they hold me accountable--making sure that I am on track with accomplishing my life goals.
“They challenged my norm and encouraged a paradigm shift that empowered me to pursue success. They never put limitations on me and instead helped me actualize my dreams.”
Today, Richardson and Mirror Me attempt to do the same for area girls. The organization connects girls with community service projects, leadership seminars, mentoring and more.
“Our goal is to connect the girls to working professionals in preparation for college readiness and the work force,” says Richardson. “Each girl is assigned an individual mentor who monitors school grades, college readiness, and behavior. Mentors check in with their mentees to ensure academic excellence and a seamless transition into a post-secondary institution or university.”
U Prep and its incredible public school teachers made a difference in Richardson’s life, and she’s dedicated it to providing the same opportunities to every other girl she meets.