She recalls Bill Cosby was on the television, hosting a town hall meeting about kids and education.
“He’s saying, ‘Lack of resources isn’t the only problem. Failing kids is our problem,” Donelson said. “And he was right. I got so caught up in what he was saying that I started yelling at the TV.”
That’s when she knew she had to do something. Now, as she prepares for the Teach for America program, she’s ready to take action.
At the time of the TV incident, Donelson was working for herself, providing billing training and consulting for auto dealers. She traveled across the country and enjoyed what she did.
And yet something was missing.
“I didn’t feel like I was adding anything to the moral fabric of the community,” she said.
As a native Detroiter—she grew up on the northwest side and attended Cooley High School—strengthening the community, especially the schools, has always been important to Donelson.
“I know how it is to be a student in Detroit: teacher shortages, lack of resources, the effects of poverty on the community. I’ve been there. If anyone can help, it’s me,” she said.
That’s why she reenrolled in college, hoping to use her natural knack for teaching to transform her community. She’ll get that chance now that Teach for America has placed her in Detroit; she starts her new position after graduating from UM-Dearborn this May.
Donelson’s passion is to teach writing across the disciplines, preparing students to write at the college level.
It’s a passion that has strengthened as she’s worked with university and high school students within UM-Dearborn’s Writing Center and Academic Outreach. Her independent study with associate professor Liz Rohan focuses on teaching 11th and 12th grade students to write for college.
One of her biggest allies in the work? Social media.
“Students say, ‘Oh, I don’t write. I don’t know how to write,’ but they’re writing all the time,” she said. “I use social media to teach them how to write.”
She’ll ask students to tweet back reactions to something she’s discussed.
Once, Donelson recalls a student who couldn’t condense the main idea of her paper. So Donelson challenged the student to tell her the idea—in only one text message.
“How do they capture their own voice and put that on paper? Some will use too many words; some not enough. It’s about taking an idea and putting it out there in a way that people can understand,” she said.
Donelson hopes to learn more about integrating technology in the classroom when she enrolls in UM-Dearborn’s master’s program in educational technology. Already, she works with the Teaching with Technology Collaborative, a group of faculty and IT staff members who help professors learn about technologies available in the classroom.
She’ll have plenty of field experience to reflect on during her advanced studies. Through it all, she plans to keep focused on what’s best for her students.
“If they can get here—if they can get to college—then I’ve done something with my life,” she said.