Zanovia McKinley | Age: 19

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Currently attending: Carroll University
Involved with Unity in Motion since: 2002

Spend just a few minutes with Zanovia McKinley and you get the sense that her life has always been pointed in the right direction. All she needed was a little boost.

It all started around age 7, when she already knew she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a nurse. Soon after, her ambitions further evolved: she wanted to become a doctor. Today, her goals are even higher and more defined: Zanovia is going to be a pediatric oncologist and join the fight against cancer.

Zanovia was introduced to Unity in Motion through her mother, who was working as a nurse at The Family House, a local retirement community. When Unity in Motion started holding some of its sessions in the basement there, Zanovia decided to check it out.

The importance of education and the need for academic discipline were hardly new concepts to her, but the way it was all emphasized in those first meetings was an eye-opener.

“You could tell they were serious right away, and I liked that,” says Zanovia.

Ten years later, Zanovia remains an active member with Unity in Motion and she credits the organization with giving her much of the added drive and guidance needed to pursue her lofty dreams.

“I knew what I wanted to do with my life, but didn’t really know what it would take to get there. Unity in Motion helped me realize I could actually do it. It wasn’t going to be easy, but I could do it.”

Now her sights are set firmly on graduating from University School of Milwaukee and attending either Xavier University of Louisiana or the University of Wisconsin – Madison. From there, medical school and then, well, there’s still plenty of time to figure that out.

But she won’t forget her roots. “I want to help make Unity in Motion bigger, because without Unity in Motion I wouldn’t be me.”

A Parents Perspective

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Q – What was it about Unity In Motion that drew you and your sons to the program?

A – From the start the people theretalked seriously and openly about the long term commitment necessary for success. And that went for the kids, the parents and the tutors. I knew right away this was going to be more than just an after-school club activity. That hit home for me and my stepsons right away.

 

Q – What have you noticed most about how your two stepsons have changed through their participation in Unity In Motion? 

A – Andrew has been coming out of his shell more, quietly growing more confident and disciplined in his studies. Before we couldn’t get him to pick up a book, now he can’t stop reading. As for Stephen, he too has overcome his shyness and now talks openly about wanting to become an astronomer. All of this personal growth is, in my opinion, a direct result of the tutoring and interaction they have received with Unity In Motion.  

 

Q – As a parent, what do you see as the number one obstacle youths face growing up today?

A – The whole issue of bullying and standing up for yourself is a huge problem for young kids these days. There’s so many bad influences out there. And that all comes down to too many kids not having the proper guidance and role models to choose the right path. It doesn’t have to be that way, but all too often it is. 

 

Q – One of the cornerstones of Unity In Motion is the long-term commitment it makes to the development of youth? What does that term “long-term commitment” mean to you?

A – It means we as parents are not alone in the challenge of raising our children up the right way. With Unity In Motion there’s always somebody we will be able to turn to for help so that together we can see to it that these young people get every chance for success that they deserve.

 

Q – What would you say to other parents who are considering having their children join Unity In Motion?

A – With so many tough stories out there, you owe it to your children to give them every chance to succeed. I can’t say enough about what Unity In Motion is doing for my family, and I know the same can be true for anyone.

Tre’von Downey | Age:18

Tre'von Downey

Tre'von Downey

Tre’von admits he hasn’t always been on the right track. In fact, his life could have gone completely down the wrong path without the influence of Unity in Motion. He first got involved with Unity in Motion in 6th grade. He really liked the encouragement the program provided—plus learning non-violent martial arts, volunteering in the community, and helping out and meeting new people—but in high school, things started to get a little out of control.

His grades started to slip and he stopped listening to his mom’s good advice. Tre’von seemed to be headed for trouble. He credits Unity in Motion for his turnaround. They never gave up, even when he might have. The counseling and programs helped him get his grades—and his life—back on track.

As Tre’von puts it, “They stayed on my case so I could stay in the program and be a better kid and student. They offered help when I needed it most and always talked to me about my future.”
The persistence of Unity in Motion leaders Allen and Sam really paid off. Today, Tre’von is a proud graduate of Riverside University High School and he just started on his college degree at the University of Wisconsin—Richland.

He notes that his transition to college life was pretty easy. “It’s like a bigger and better version of high school, but with a little but more freedom,” he says. After all, being on his own isn’t that big a lifestyle change. His mom worked nights, so Tre’von is used to fending for himself.
He hasn’t quite settled on a major yet, but he’s considering pre-law.
What he really wants to do is make his mom proud. And he already has.

What really pushed Tre’von to stay in school and follow through with his responsibilities were the Unity in Motion values he learned from his mentors, Unity in Motion leaders Al and Sam. They helped him keep his eyes on the future and excel in his schoolwork. And Sam and Al and the Unity in Motion team? They continue to check in with Tre’von, even while he’s away at college, to discuss his progress and support him. Unity in Motion has been like family since Tre’von was 11 years old. They aren’t going anywhere, and he’s going nowhere but up.