New Year’s Resolution….TRAVEL!

Okay, you said you were going to do more of it this year…yes, TRAVEL! What better way to start the year than to plan an educational experience of a lifetime. The Merze Tate Explorers will explore the black sand beaches of Hawaii during an all-inclusive, tour-guide led study in June, 2018.

In addition to students earning high school science credit, adults too will experience the black sand beaches of Kona, the Pearl Harbor Museum in Honolulu, tours to chocolate factories, astronomy at night, volcano exploration by day….and so much more!

Contact Program Leader, Sonya Hollins for more information at: Don’t miss out!

Explorers Wrap Gifts with Crossroads Mall Staff Volunteers

By Sonya Bernard-Hollins- Founder, Merze Tate Explorers

From right, Operations Manager of GGP Properties and his wife, join security and maintenance staff in helping wrap gifts as part of the Explorers’ mall gift wrapping fundraiser.

PORTAGE (MICH.)- Two weeks before Christmas the Explorers were on a mission: HELP SHOPPERS WRAP THEIR GIFTS! Explorers, parents, and community volunteers all took part in this amazing fundraising adventure, thanks to the Crossroads Mall in Portage, Michigan. The mall allowed the Explorers to set up a Santa Workshop gift wrapping station to collect donations for their 2018 STEM study in Hawaii!

Explorers received pre-workshop training on how to wrap by self-proclaimed “expert wrappers.” Everyone took part, from assembling boxes to adding on a colorful bow to a beautifully wrapped surprise. Santa Claus even came over for some last-minute gift wrapping help from Explorer Elves!

This fundraising project continues through Christmas Eve! Thanks for the generous donations from stores, suppliers, and the mall, this has already proven to be an amazing holiday season for the Merze Tate Explorers!

Sojourner Truth Institute Honors Explorers Founder

Battle Creek (MICH.)-On November 19th, the Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek, Michigan, presented Sonya Bernard-Hollins with an award in honor of women who give back. The inaugural Dr. Velma Laws Clay Vanguard Award was presented to Bernard-Hollins for her work with youth and Michigan African American history.

Some of the Explorers attend the event and pose with Bernard-Hollins after she received her award.

The Institute cited the recipient’s dedication for history as a charter member of the Sojourner Truth Committee responsible for the Sojourner Truth Monument in Battle Creek, her work as author of Here I Stand: A Musical History of African Americans in Battle Creek, MI; and as founder of the Merze Tate Explorers youth organization, among many other accolades.

Descendants of Truth, and more than 200 community leaders, students, and supporters came to the event held at the First United Methodist Church in Battle Creek (the same church the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at in 1961). Bernard-Hollins, center, poses with Kimberly Holley and Vivian Laws Ritter of the Sojourner Truth Institute surrounded by descendants of Sojourner Truth.



The entire event focused around youth as the Sojourner Truth Choir, and youth theatre presented history and song in honor of Sojourner Truth. The tireless efforts of the late Dr. Velma Laws Clay also was recognized as a leader in community pride and history preservation. Youth actors share the life of Sojourner Truth and her famous, “Ain’t I a Woman” speech.



Explorers’ Founder to be Honored with Sojourner Truth Institute Award

Contributed by Betty Moorehead- Sojourner Truth Institute

Battle Creek (MICH).-The public is invited to attend the Annual Sojourner Truth Day Celebration, entitled “Vision of Truth” at 4 p.m. Sunday, November 19, at First United Methodist Church, 111 East Michigan Avenue, Battle Creek.

As we celebrate “Vision of Truth, the Sojourner Truth Institute will present its inaugural Dr. Velma Laws Clay Vanguard Award. The award recognizes those who exemplify outstanding service in the spirit and tradition of Dr. Laws Clay and Sojourner Truth.

“The Institute is proud to announce the recipient of this award is Sonya Bernard-Hollins, Founder of Merze Tate Explorers.” “Sonya’s ongoing efforts to empower girls to shape their own destinies is admirable and deserves recognition,” said Kimberly Holley, director of the Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek. “Her work as journalist and author of Here I Stand: A Musical History of African Americans in Battle Creek, MI, brought the stories of unsung musicians from Battle Creek to light and gave them the recognition they deserved.”

Bernard-Hollins, a native of Kalamazoo, MI, and graduate of Western Michigan University, has made outstanding contributions to the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo communities. She was instrumental in the Sojourner Truth 200th Anniversary Committee and Monument Project, has received awards from Michigan Press Association and the Associated Press of Michigan for an award-winning column while at the Battle Creek Enquirer. In addition, she is an author of historic books that highlight African Americans of Michigan, and her work as the founder of the Merze Tate Explorers in Kalamazoo has led to girls achieving great educational heights.

Merze Tate was the first African American graduate of Western State Teachers College (currently Western Michigan University), who went on to become the first African American graduate of Oxford University. Bernard-Hollins is completing a book on Tate’s life and has helped Tate receive recognition with a library named for her in her hometown of Blanchard, Michigan.

“Sojourner Truth. Merze Tate, and Dr. Velma Laws Clay are three women who have been an inspiration in my life,” said Bernard-Hollins, a former editor of the Battle Creek Enquirer and former reporter for the Kalamazoo Gazette. “To have an award presented in their memories is both humbling and motivating.”

Dr. Velma Laws Clay is fondly and respectfully remembered for her tireless dedication and efforts in keeping the legacy of Sojourner Truth alive. “This is a true example of Velma’s vision for the Sojourner Truth Institute.” “Sojourner and Velma are both pillars in our community and from here we step forward to celebrate, educate and lift up those who lead and serve in their legacy,” said Brenda Hunt, President and CEO of the Battle Creek Community Foundation.

The event will feature a special youth-led tribute to Sojourner Truth and music by the Sojourner Truth Youth Choir. “Join us for an afternoon of inspiration, song and the unveiling of a new era for the Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek,” says Betty Moorehead, Sojourner Truth Institute Advisory Board Members and Public Relations Coordinator. A free-will offering will be taken. This event is free and open to the public. An Afterglow Reception will be hosted by National Association of Negro Business & Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. of Battle Creek.

The Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek was established in 1998 by Dr. Velma Laws Clay to expand the historical and biographical knowledge of Sojourner Truth’s life work and carry on her mission by teaching, demonstrating and promoting projects that accentuate the ideals and principles for which she stood. To that end, the work of the Institute is informative, empowering, and educational, promoting intentional dialogue, collaboration, and civic engagement around the issues of social justice, women’s rights and racial equity. The Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek is an affiliated fund of the Battle Creek Community Foundation.

Pizza! Pizza! Helps Girls Succeed

As the Merze Tate Explorers prepares for an amazing 2018, we ask for your support as we raise funds through various projects. Please support the girls while enjoying Little Caesar’s Pizza. Click on this link to have a pizza or cookie kit sent directly to your door. Our goal is to raise $50,000 for scholarships that will allow our Explorers to study abroad and attend a week-long Travel Writers Academy on a college campus in 2018!

Thank you! Thank you!
Order Here!

Taste of Italy Event a Success!

Nearly 200 community leaders, family and supporters of the Merze Tate Explorers came out for great Italian food and opera music in their Taste of Italy fundraising dinner at the Ladies’ Library Association on June 1, 2017.

Soprano Rhea Olivacce poses with girls of the Merze Tate Explorers at the historic Ladies’ Library Association in Kalamazoo, MI after an amazing fundraising concert!

Thanks to the generous donations of food from Monelli’s Italian Eatery, the donation of the building by the historic Ladies’ Library, and the phenomenally-angelic sounds of soprano Rhea Olivacce, the audience and students were inspired. The students of the Merze Tate Explorers who will participate in the study abroad to Europe this summer were excited about the support and the gifts of money and other items that were presented to them.

“The old saying that, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ is so true. Without the support of those in the community who have given gifts from $25 to $15,000, we could not do what we do to help girls Explore the Possibilities in life,” said Sonya Bernard-Hollins, founder of the Explorers.

The audience listens as students share of their upcoming European study abroad.








Study abroad students share of their excitement and thanks supporters.








Guests make new friends over dessert after the concert.
Girls help serve guests with the help of the women of the Ladies’ Library Association.













Michelle Mueller presents Shi’Terriona with fun gifts for Europe.