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Madonna University Reaches Out to Help Haiti

The world was horrified when a powerful earthquake rocked Haiti in 2010. Within days, 220,000 were dead and $13.5 billion in charitable donations rolled into the tiny, chronically poor island nation.

And then, after a few months, the news shifted, sympathies waned and donations slowed. Haiti returned to “normal”: Devastating poverty, corruption and illness.

While others left, Madonna University put down roots.

The Michigan-based university is marking the fourth year of its Haiti Education Leadership Program (HELP), an online business administration program that teaches English-speaking Haitians.

“It sounds cliché, but you help one person at a time,” said Donald Conrad, a business professor who helped found the program.

The three-year program graduates about 25 students per year and is believed to be one of the only programs of its kind in Haiti. The program trains students on business practices with the goal of expanding the tiny middle class in Haiti.

“We want those in the middle to have the chance to create successful businesses and have good careers working for the government or organizations in Haiti,” said Sister Rose Marie Kujawa, who created the program and retired as Madonna University’s president this year.

Organizers are in Haiti for the long haul. They hope to expand the program to include new studies such as hospitality management.

The benevolence is typical of Michigan’s top 14 independent colleges and universities. Because helping students follow the right path and fulfill their passion is what they do.

All emphasize community over crowds and a spirit of togetherness and cohesion that just doesn’t exist at big state schools. With low class sizes and award-winning faculty, the schools are proud that students forge lifelong bonds with professors.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.