Inspiring Connections: Reflections on a Decade of Community Education – An Interview with Community Educator and Elder Mary K. Boyd

Inspiring Connections: Reflections on a Decade of Community Education - An Interview with Community Educator and Elder Mary K. Boyd

A longtime community partner of Youthprise, Every Body’s In (EBI) is a movement that inspires Every Body to recognize the connection between formal education in schools and informal education in the community. EBI encourages members of each community to accept their rightful places as Community Educators to help strengthen this connection. Community Educators are defined as anyone who steps up and takes responsibility for the education and development of youth in their community. EBI takes pride in sharing and BEING the village for Minnesota Youth. The following is an interview with Mary K. Boyd, co-founder of the EBI movement in Minnesota and community elder, as well as educator. For more information about her organization, please visit

When did you first hear about the concept of community educators?

When I was at one of the educator conversations at the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio. I had been invited by Dr. Patricia Moore Harbour, an associate of the foundation, to participate along with other invitees. Kettering is a research foundation, and I remember she was listening to how the people in our cohort did education in their communities. There were formal educators and informal educators there. On a call after the event, Patricia told me she was writing a book and wanted me to contribute a chapter. She said, “I want you to help me write this book.” During that call, she explained the concept behind her research. When talking around the table at Kettering, it became very clear that education was happening beyond the classroom. She suggested the phrase “community educators” to describe those who contribute to the education and development of our youth and she was collecting stories from the field. The book, “Community Educators” was published in 2012, and I contributed to the chapter: “Education—Not Just Schooling.” My section was entitled “A Story from the Field: Life Experience as a Resource for Helping Youth.” Because I’ve always valued the education I received from my community, the Rondo village, I thought this was an opportunity to acknowledge the learnings beyond the formal classroom instruction.

Who served as community educators for you in your youth?

There were so many: Mrs. Howland lived about 3 blocks down the street from us. She was formally taught piano, an accomplished pianist, and the wife of one of my father’s best friends. I started taking lessons from her when I was 6 and continued until I was 15 when she moved out of state, and she transferred all her students to me. So, I went from student to teacher under Mrs. Howland’s tutelage. Mrs. Hagen taught sewing to the young ladies in the neighborhood and I remember she had such patience. I would walk the few blocks to her home and she would teach us how to use the sewing machine, to hand-stitch, to mend, and to create a garment. Those community educators and others exuded a sense of “I see you, I accept you, don’t give up, I’ll help you.” You didn’t have to be graded. They coached and they believed in us.
Every Body’s In just celebrated its 10 year anniversary. What are some of the highlights of the last 10 years?
I think back about the two times that we brought Dr. Patricia Moore Harbour to the Twin Cities and created events around her work. Whether it’s a community gathering or one-on-one sharing experiences, the interaction has power and energy. We went on to have events at a variety of venues and for different audiences. We always make certain to have time for small group discussions that connect us on a more personal level. I’m being educated every time I talk with others about Every Body’s In and community educators. It’s a very reciprocal experience.

What is your favorite Every Body’s In memory?

My favorite moments are when the lightbulb goes off and they understand: “I’m a community educator, too!” They realize that they, too, have gifts to share with the youth in their community. They recognize they have a place and responsibility to the children. Oftentimes, there’s a change in their demeanor as they accept the position of community educator. They sit up straighter and walk a little taller. It’s almost like they walk with purpose.

Is Every Body’s In still relevant today?

Oh my goodness! I almost venture to say it’s more relevant today because people are living pretty isolated lives and in the public sector, kids seem to be dropping back or dropping out, and so the relationship that is foundational to the interaction is so necessary now. Young people say, “In order to learn from you, I need to know you care about me. And that you accept me. Then, I’m more open to being taught and inspired.” It’s the old saying: reach one, teach one. But they need to be reached first and community educators know how to connect with youth and recognize the importance of the relationship. They also understand how crucial it is that we accept the whole child.

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