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She Writes A Brighter Future, One Student At A Time

Megan and Kelly!!!!!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat! Let’s dive right in! Tell me about the two of you.

Megan Shuchman: I was born in Dexter, but lived in Chicago for a long time. We just moved back here in September so I could take over as Executive Director of 826michigan, a youth creative writing non- profit based here in Ann Arbor that also serves students in Detroit and Ypsilanti. Our programs involve adult volunteers in the community in helping teach school-aged students about creative writing in classrooms and after school programs.

Kelly Mitchell: I am from Los Angeles originally, and I work in non-profit research. We hold companies and the government accountable for their actions, and make sure that people know who is influencing public policy.

So you two met in Chicago? And when did you get married?

Megan: We did! We met through some friends and ended up getting married in 2013.

Kelly: Well, the civil union was in 2013. At the time, that’s all we could do; we couldn’t get legally married until later.

And are you legally married now?

Megan: We are. When the Supreme Court Decision came down, Illinois converted our civil union into a marriage, retroactive to the day we got married in 2013.

Kelly: I remember when we went to do that paperwork, the city clerk had flowers for every one of the same sex couples celebrating this new right - it was absolutely fantastic.

Megan: Since we had a wonderful traditional wedding back in 2013, we didn’t do anything special for the conversion. Our original wedding was just what we wanted.

Then why did you end up in Ann Arbor?

Megan: We have two kids, Jonah (3) and Avery (6). We really wanted to be closer to family, either in LA or Dexter. So when the 826michigan ED position opened, we jumped at the chance for our children to be surrounded by grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins.

Kelly: It made so much sense for ourselves and for our family. I work remotely so I really can move at any time. And being near family has made everything a little easier.

That’s an amazing journey! So, how was coming out for each of you?

Megan: I came out relatively late, I was in my twenties. I think I told my friends first, and they were very supportive. The biggest challenge wasn’t necessarily what to tell people, but how – I didn’t know if I needed to send an announcement! Do you send out balloons letting everyone know? I had no idea! But everyone – friends and family included – was great.

Kelly: I also came out relatively late. I had a relationship with a woman in college but didn’t see myself as gay at the time. I don’t remember who I told first, but I remember telling my mom during an 8 hour layover in LA when I asked her to come get me from the airport. I hadn’t planned anything; I just kind of told her. She was surprised, but she was great. The most shocking for me was my very proper English grandmother. She was in her 80s at the time, a very conservative woman. I came out to her and she was so nonchalant about it, I still can’t believe it.

Megan: I do remember meeting Kelly’s dad for the first time. The morning after we flew in to Los Angeles, I woke up early and I walked into to the kitchen and Michael (Kelly’s dad) looked at me and said “So….when are you two going to have kids?”

I hadn’t even had coffee yet. I had no idea how to respond!

That’s incredibly fascinating. How did you both get into your line of work?

Megan: I have always loved theater, and spent over twenty years working in the theater and leading arts education programs. And while I lived in Chicago leading a theater’s education program, I began partnering with the 826 chapter in Chicago and loved the work.

Kelly: I have always been the type of person who has been intense about fairness. I’ve always believed that everyone deserves a level playing field. Even as a kid, I would spend way too much time making sure my brother and I had equal amounts of a drink we were sharing. I ended up working for Greenpeace after college and that led me to where I am now.

Are these careers your passion?

Megan: It is for me. I genuinely believe the arts saved my own life by giving me a place in the world. The arts gave me purpose, belonging, and community. Exactly what I want to give others.

Kelly: I want to put the spotlight on those who create disadvantages or personally enrich themselves at others’ expense. I believe in doing what’s right.

So, I’m going to shift briefly to Megan. In your role at 826MI, what’s your vision for the future?

I want to grow our community of supporters so that more people can see themselves as part of 826michigan, whether they have students attending programs or whether they’re volunteering an afternoon a week with our writing clubs. I also want to leverage the privilege that exists in our city and the surrounding communities to serve the particular needs of our students. Community is so essential to any support system for children. I believe in building a better community for our children.

I love it. Last two questions. The first one is an easier one. What advice would each of you give to your younger selves?

Megan: Oh…….Take bigger risks earlier in life. Figure out your identity. It’ll be ok.

Kelly: I was a perfectionist as a kid. So I would say allow failure. It’s going to happen, so be comfortable with it.

I love it all! Last question. What do you want your kids to tell other people when asked about you in 10 years.

Both: Oh that’s a really good question. We would say we are here in the world to help others. I hope we have raised them to help others, whether professionally or in other parts of their life. Our expectations is they will be the helpers, will be up-standers.. And always, always, remember how important family is.

Thank you both for an amazing time.

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