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Look Who’s Talking: Sonya Bernard-Hollins

I’m married to Graphic Artist Sean Hollins and we have four children ranging in age from twelve to thirty. Our eldest, Edward, graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Music Performance and lives in New York. Our other three (Shamiel, Syann and Sasha) all attend Gull Lake Public Schools.”

We have four year-old Shih Tzu named Max who thinks he’s a real boy.”

I was once in the U.S. Army. Yep…I carried a M-16 and threw hand grenades.

To climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Sonya Bernard-Hollins has always been a journalist at heart. She remembers a picture from her High School yearbook that perfectly illustrates this point. In it, she is bent over a classmate’s shoulder, helping her edit her work in an effort to ensure that the best possible story gets told. She often spent hours at her grandmother’s house, pouring over the pages of Ebony magazine. While other kids her age wanted to become the famous people reflected in the articles, Sonya dreamed of being the one to tell their stories. Her perceptive grandmother gifted her with an electric typewriter and the rest, as they say, is history.

Sonya’s path into journalism found her crafting stories at publications such as the Kalamazoo Gazette, the Battle Creek Enquirer, Black Enterprise Magazine, Business Insight and the Southwest Michigan Tribune. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Season Press, LLC, which she runs with her husband, Sean. Season Press has worked with dozens of authors to help them self-publish while also being responsible for the quarterly online publication Community Voices. Sonya’s passion for media has also expanded to television productions, leading her to serve as Community Advancement Specialist for Public Media Network. There she helps people to share their stories in ways that inspire, educate and entertain their community.

Sonya’s job with Season Press and Public Media Network would be enough to keep any person busy, but her introduction to WMU alumna Merze Tate inspired her take on yet another role. Tate was a Michigan native who came from humble beginnings but built for herself a life of accomplishment and impact. She graduated from WMU in 1927 and went on to become Oxford’s first African American graduate in 1932. She continued on to a career as a history teacher and founded a travel club to encourage students of color to experience the world around them. When she died, she left millions to her alma maters (including WMU).

Inspired by Merze Tate’s example, and nurturing her own desire to encourage African American young women to explore and embrace the world beyond Southwest Michigan, Sonya founded the Merze Tate Travel Club in 2008. Though the name has changed (to Merze Tate Explorers), the goals have remained the same.

Sonya is proud that, in the ten years since its inception, Merze Tate Explorers has served over 100 girls. Many of these young women have achieved extraordinary things, with many graduating college & becoming world travelers themselves.

Merze Tate Explorers boasts amongst its alumnae a Fulbright Scholar, an intern in Public Policy in Washington DC and a product photographer at Kellogg’s.

In her exceedingly rare free time, Sonya loves to read biographies about people who have overcome great odds in life to achieve incredible things. She loves to glean insight and inspiration from others to keep her motivated and full of passion. She also loves to travel and has a special place in her heart for pancakes covered in strawberries.

Erica Shier is a married mother of four who loves reading, scrapbooking & thrift stores. When she’s not driving her small pack of children around, she spends her time volunteering, writing & trying to keep on top of the laundry.

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