Maggie: Now, when most people think of hair accessories, they think of using them…well, in their hair. But one young girl had a different idea. An idea that would help change the course of young girls’ lives living halfway around the world. Scott Evans has the story.
Girl: How much is this?
Mary Grace Henry: That’s 15.
Scott: These girls look like they are just shopping.
Mary Grace: They’re 15, and they’re on sale.
Scott: But they are also supporting Reverse the Course and helping to make it possible for girls in Africa to go to school, thanks to this girl, Mary Grace Henry, from Harrison, New York.
Mary Grace: Reverse the Course is a business that I started when I was 12. Basically what happened was I wanted to find a way to help one girl go to school. But I knew that education was long-term, and so I needed something sustainable to hold that up. I didn’t want to rely on my parents and friends for money.
Scott: She knew she had to come up with an idea that would make money quickly.
Mary Grace: I decided to try to make reversible headbands so that people could get something 2-in-1 and also help girls go to school.
Scott: But she had to get the tools of the trade.
Mary Grace: I asked my mom and my dad for an early birthday present, and I asked for a sewing machine. I basically had a 15-minute lesson on how to run the machine and I taught myself how to sew!
Scott: The reversible headband was the first style the young entrepreneur came up with. And her impact has grown quite a bit since the days of selling her products in her school’s bookstore.
Mary Grace: I now am at 35 girls and 91 years of tuition so far.
Mary Grace: My goal is to get to 100 girls by the time I graduate.
Scott: So far, she has donated about $70,000. And each headband she sells equals two days of school for one of her girls. Reverse the Course works directly with organizations on the ground in both Uganda and Kenya to make sure the money sent goes directly to the girls in need.
Mary Grace: My mom and my dad help a lot with finance because I’m still too young to even sign a check.
Scott: And now the demand is so high for her hair accessories that she has enlisted a little bit of help.
Mary Grace: I can’t manage the production side of the business alone anymore, and so I have now outsourced my reversible headbands.
Scott: And as if the high school junior didn’t have enough on her plate with the business, public speaking, classes, and filling out college applications, she is also on the varsity squad for both squash and golf.
So, does it ever become too much? Do you ever sit back and say, ‘I can’t possibly take on one more thing’?
Mary Grace: You know, it keeps me busy and it keeps me out of trouble – not that I’d really be in any but… It’s really fun and interesting.
Scott: Every time Mary grace walks into her basement, which doubles as her workspace, she sees images that remind her what all this hard work is for.
Mary Grace: It shows the importance of each girl as a part of the Reverse the Course family. Going to Kenya this past June, being able to really spend a few days with the girls and get to know them on a very personal level, was why I started Reverse the Course. And so, it was the best moment to just create almost a sisterly bond with them and really see that what I do in this basement, and what people do here to support me, has made a huge difference in the lives of these girls. And that has really propelled me to come back more determined and more excited to just make a larger difference.
Scott: Most of the girls Mary Grace is helping are a part of the tribe known as the Maasai. Young girls in this tribe are often up against major obstacles when it comes to getting an education. Women are often responsible for managing the family’s home, general chores and usually get married early. Very few can afford to send their children to school.
Where do you see Reverse the Course, I guess, in four more years?
Mary Grace: I mean, I’m trying to focus on junior year now. But, you know, in four years I see myself probably doing more public speaking and working more on the foundation side and sort of trying to find someone who can handle the daily production and the daily management of the business. But there is no way that this is going to go away.
Scott: And interestingly enough, Mary Grace says making a difference doesn’t have to be about huge projects.
Mary Grace: Even hold the door open for someone and just be gracious and courteous to other people makes them feel better about themselves. And they’ll in turn pass that on. It’s really about one person doing small things and those small things will then create a ripple effect.
Scott: A ripple effect that can make a huge impact.
Scott Evans, Channel One News.
Maggie: If you want to learn more about Reverse the Course or make an impact yourself, you know what to do. Just check out the Impact section over at Channelone.com.