Nobel Prize for Child Advocates winner reverses the course

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Convent of the Sacred Heart senior Mary Grace Henry recently traveled to Kenya to meet the beneficiaries of her company Reverse the Course's mission of changing girls education around the world. Cori Gabaldon '15

Convent of the Sacred Heart senior Mary Grace Henry recently traveled to Kenya to meet the beneficiaries of her company Reverse the Course's mission of changing girls education around the world.  Cori Gabaldon '15
Convent of the Sacred Heart senior Mary Grace Henry recently traveled to Kenya to meet the beneficiaries of her company Reverse the Course’s mission of changing girls education around the world.
Cori Gabaldon ’15

While some Convent of the Sacred Heart students embarked on local community service projects this summer, senior Mary Grace Henry traveled across the world to Kenya and Uganda to reverse the course for girls’ education. The World of Children organization recently recognized her charitable work by honoring her with its most prestigious award, the World of Children Award.
Mary Grace started her company, Reverse the Course (RTC), at age 12. Through RTC, Mary Grace funds girls’ education in Uganda, Kenya, Paraguay and Haiti by selling hand-sown bows and reversible headbands.
“I started Reverse The Course because I wanted to develop a personal connection with one girl somewhere in the world. I was inspired by Sacred Heart’s work with our sister school in Uganda and I wanted to become more involved,” Mary Grace said. “I didn’t want to rely on my parents and their friends for money so I decided to start a hair accessory business in order to raise funds for girls’ tuition payments while giving customers something in exchange for their generosity.”
When Mary Grace first began her company, she sold her accessories in the Sacred Heart bookstore, local retail stores, and at local sidewalk sales.
Mary Grace has since added new products to the original list of accessories which include both plain and bow headbands, ponytails holders and clips. Additionally, designs including fraternity or sorority’s Greek symbols, baby, and bridal accessories are expanding her fan base to older generations.
After four years of hard work, Mary Grace has sold 100,000 products. She currently sponsors 45 girls with her profits,  providing funding for boarding, uniforms, and textbooks.
“The coming years for Reverse The Course pose new and exciting challenges and opportunities. As I transition into college I will need to outsource production as all of the hair accessories are still made in my basement.” Mary Grace said. “On the foundation side, my aim is to fund 100 girls through secondary school and develop business workshop and mentoring programs for students.” 
During her trips to Kenya and Uganda, Mary Grace was able to personally meet almost all of the students that she has recently helped, as well as rekindle bonds with longtime sponsored girls.
“It was amazing to see both old and new faces. It was like camp in a way. The first few minutes you are getting to know a bit about each other but then suddenly in the next few minutes you become best friends. That’s what seeing my students was like and I think that was one of the most impactful parts of the trip,” Mary Grace said.
On her recent trip, she also observed programs she has been working with since December 2013. One of these organizations is the St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a Jesuit school in Kenya. The Gonzaga school is located in Kibera, the largest slum in Sub-Saharan Africa, in Nairobi Kenya. Another is Hekima Place, a girls’ orphanage that houses victims of violence and rape in Kenya.
Mary Grace’s remarkable charity work of Reverse the Course earned her the World of Children Award, an honor presented to teenagers who work toward improving the lives of other children. According to the worldofchildren.org, the award is known as the “Nobel Prize for Child Advocates” since it is presented to young advocates of change.
The non-profit organization World of Children recognized Mary Grace for her devotion to improving girls’ education. They received 1000 nominations from 108 countries around the world this year, and chose seven winners.
“We look forward to helping these every day heroes continue their missions. They are now forever a part of our World of Children Award family,” Harry Leibowitz, World of Children Award Co-Founder and CO-Chair, said according to worldofchildren.org.
The organization will celebrate the accomplishments of Mary Grace and the other winners at the annual World of Children Awards November 6 in New York City. Each winner will be awarded a grant of up to $75,000 to continue his or her work.
“The World of Children Youth Award means so much to me. It will expand awareness about Reverse The Course and confirm and cement our role as an advocate for girls’ education,” Mary Grace said. “This award is more than the check. It means I am part of a network of people who are dedicated to helping the most vulnerable: children, and hopefully, I will be able to inspire others to take their passion and use it to affect positive, global change.”

-Cori Gabaldon, Staff Writer