Explorers Serve During Ecumenical MLK Event in Kalamazoo

by Sonya Bernard-Hollins, Founder-Merze Tate Explorers

Explorers set up table to help serve the hundreds who attended the celebration.

KALAMAZOO (MICH.)- Nearly two dozen Explorers came out to serve the guest of the 31st Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on January 15 at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. More than 200 community leaders, public officials, and residents joined in the celebration that celebrated the Rev. Dr. King through song, community service award presentations, and keynote address. The event was hosted by the Northside Ministerial Alliance with the theme: The Transformative Power of a Unified Dream.


Layla helps serve as the other girls also take their positions in various volunteer roles at the event. Photos by Shemaiah Lawler

Explorers Sierra and Aliah Ward, and Kennedi Patterson, also were part of the MLK Youth Choir where Sierra was featured in a brief solo (see Sierra on the newslink above). In addition to the girl Explorers, the new chapter of boy Explorers (led by Daniel Patterson) were debuted in this joint-community service effort.

Angela Daniels and myself (right) share our view of King’s dream with the reporter from WWMT Channel 3 of Kalamazoo. -Photo by Sierra Ward.



The opportunity to serve the community, is one of the ways Explorers give back to the community. In addition, the service allows the girls to thank the many supporters who have contributed to the success of the organization over the past nine years.

Explorers pose with the new Explorer boys chapter led by Daniel Patterson.

Girls Seek Support from Ministers For Study Abroad Experience

KALAMAZOO (MICH.)- As six girls from Michigan plan to experience the culture and geography of Europe and earn three college credits, they have plenty of work to do. The cost of this all-inclusive educational experience  is $4,500 per student. While this price seems astronomical to the families of each student, the priceless experience is worth it.

The girls began 2017 on a mission to experience Europe debt free. Their first “ask” was to  nearly two dozen ministers of the Northside (Kalamazoo) Ministerial Alliance. Each presented a different aspect of the program, what they’ve learned, and what they hope to accomplish in their European study. Girls will visit such places as Paris, France, and Venice and Florence in Italy, in addition to hands-on experiences that they will remember for a lifetime.

For the first time, the Explorers will partner with Kalamazoo Public Schools for this experience headed by high school art teacher, Cindy VanLieu. VanLieu, who has traveled around the world through the program, will guide the nearly 25 participants from area schools and the Explorers, through the process. Weekend language and culture prep classes will be held in addition to group-wide fundraising efforts.

Through upcoming fundraising luncheons, garage sales, snack sales, and plenty of hard work, this will be the second European study abroad opportunity funded in part by the Merze Tate Explorers. The first in 2015, allowed Explorers Natasha and Claire the opportunity to study in France for 30 days. During this experience the Explorers participated in daily language courses, visited historic landmarks and museums, and experienced French cuisine.

Please help the girls as they prepare for a life-changing experience! Donate on our Paypal button above! Contact Sonya Hollins, executive director of the Merze Tate Explorers for more information at: 269-359-7895, or email: contact@merzetate.com.


Domino’s Pizza Fundraising Success; Next Fundraiser Underway

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-4-15-49-pmWow! Thanks so much to Domino’s Pizza and the supporters of the Merze Tate Explorers who helped us raise $1,000 toward our Study Abroad experience to Paris and Italy in July 2017!

dreamflyerAs the Merze Tate Explorers plan more world experiences, we know it will take money and lots of support from our community, family, and friends. So, we are moving ahead to offer fundraising experiences that will help invest in the girls and give our donors something as well.

Our next fundraising experience will allow us to split concession sales with the Black Arts and Cultural Center during their production of Dreamgirls. Please come out and support us (and buy plenty of snacks!) while you enjoy an amazing recreation of a Broadway favorite.

Dreamgirls, a musical that highlights the rise to fame of one Do-Wop girls group and the challenges they experienced along with way. The play is loosely based on the Motown group, the Supremes.

To purchase tickets, visit: www.faceofftheatre.weebly.com.

This is great production for family and a great way to support local theater. For more information regarding the Merze Tate Explorers, please feel free to email: contact@merzetate.com.

Help fulfill the dream for the girls as you enjoy the play, Dreamgirls!

4th Annual Girls Can! Magazine

For the 4th year, the Merze Tate Explorers has held a summer Travel Writers Academy. During this week on a Michigan college campus, students not only experience college life, they travel throughout the city, region, state, and internationally, to learn of various careers. Through their travel writing adventures, they meet amazing women who share of their careers, how they got there, and what it takes to make in their industry.

Some of the people we met, and places we’ve traveled are chronicled in the pages of our 4th Annual Girls Can! Magazine! Check it out!



Girls Can! 2017 Brings Organizations Together to Inspire Girls


4TH Annual Girls Can! Collaborative a Success


KALAMAZOO, MI – Nearly 200 participants came out for arts, crafts, and interactive leadership activities offered during the 4th Annual Girls Can! Collaborative. The event was held September 9, 2016, as part of the monthly Art Hop festivities at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Hosted by the Merze Tate Explorers and the KIA, the mission of the evening was Unity: Helping girls find the power to believe in themselves. Through that theme, girls participated in interactive icebreaker activities, which not only allowed girls to make new friends, but to introduce them to the eight collaborating organizations.


In addition to the Merze Tate Explorers and KIA’s ArtGirls, partnership includes YWCA’s TechGyrls, Fire Historical and Cultural Arts’ Collaborative’s Writing with Fire, Black Arts and Cultural Center, Kalamazoo Junior Girls, Girls on the Run, and the Girl Scouts.


“Last year this event began as a way to highlight what all of these organization do to empower girls. The results were so amazing that organizations decided to team up to offer it again, having the focus on a more interactive experience,” said Hollins, founder of the Merze Tate Explorers.


“Across the board, the KIA is partnering with area organizations in new ways. Through this collaborative, we aim to use the arts to nurture the social, emotional, and cultural well-being of Kalamazoo area girls by connecting them with the KIA and other organizations. Through collaboration, we lay the foundation for a stronger, more vibrant community, by highlighting the variety of community resources and learning opportunities available for kids and families,” said Belinda Tate, executive director of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

Operation International a Success!

IMG_96643-D at Whirlpoolmixing at WhirlpoolIMG_0013by Sonya Bernard-Hollins, founder
Merze Tate Explorers

Photos copyright protected-Merze Tate Explorers

After months of planning, fund raising, and a few unexpected twists and turns, the 2016 Travel Writers Academy was a success! The women of Whirlpool in Benton Harbor, Michigan, provided us with a tailor-made two-day hands-on experience that inspired the girls in so many ways. No only did they meet most of the female VP’s of Whirlpool, their Smoothie Challenge pitches were judged by a panel which included Marc Bitzer, president and chief operating officer,  and Joe Liotine, president of Whirlpool North America! The girls were given exclusive tours of the 3-D printing lab, test kitchen, and appliance durability test areas.



Our week of adventure included interviews with other amazing women who shared of their talents and passion for their careers and travel. College IMG_9986students gave interactive presentations that shared of their international travels, language, and cultural aspects they have learned along the way.

Aliah japanIMG_0732





IMG_0778Motown girlsIMG_0811











As we headed East in Michigan, we took a tour of the Motown Museum! We felt the vibes of Berry Gordy as one of our students crooned a pop hit under the echo-chamber-like hole in the ceiling that was the secret to the Motown sound. To top off the experience, the girls were surprised by a visit from Teresa Brown, the chief operating officer of the Motown Museum! The girls interviewed her, along with Motown’s social media and public relations coordinator Shanel Adams.




All  work and no play could make the Explorers dull girls. So, to break up the work between studying our geography and writing, we  experienced a cruise along the Detroit river on the Detroit Princess. The girls danced the night away, winning limbo and other dance contests!


Our trip concluded with the finale…a trip to Niagara Falls! As they experienced the boarder patrol and currency exchange lessons of international travel, they marveled in the mist of the falls during a Journey Behind the Falls experience of the view behind the falls, and   road on the Hornblower Niagara Cruise boat toward the falls…ponchos and all! Niagara Falls is one of the 20 Places Around the World the Explorers are challenged to visit during their lifetime.


The Merze Tate Explorers provides an opportunity for girls to not only see the world, but meet amazing women who can inspire them along the way. Look for more gallery photos of our trips to be uploaded soon!

And, thanks to all those who contributed through our GoFundMe account, personal contributions, and fundraising efforts that allowed this experience to be one our girls will remember for a lifetime!