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Eastern Echo Podcast: March 10, 2021

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appoints a new memeber to EMU’s board of regents, an student starts a non-profit organization to aid those who struggle with mental illness, and the Jewish Studies Department hosts a live stream with Mira Awad.

Liz Hornyak: On this week’s episode, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appoints Chad Newton to the Board of Regents, an EMU student starts a non-profit organization to help students who struggle with mental illness, and Eastern Michigan University’s Jewish Studies Department hosts a live stream with Mira Awad. I am your host Liz Hornyak and this is the Eastern Echo Podcast.

On March 5, Gov. Whitmer appointed Chad Newton, the CEO of the Wayne County Airport Authority, to Eastern Michigan University’s Board of Regents. EMUToday reports that Newton  serves as the CEO of the Wayne County Airport Authority. He supervises the independent government enterprise that manages and operates the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and Willow Run Airport, which is Michigan’s busiest airport system. 

Newton is also an Eastern alumnus three times over. In 1996, Newton received his bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. In 2010, Newton received his masters degree in Technology Studies with a concentration in Law Enforcement, and in 2014 Newton graduated from EMU’s School of Police Staff and Command.

Newton said in a statement, “It is a huge honor to be selected by Governor Gretchen Whitmer to serve on the Eastern Michigan Board of Regents. As a long-time alumnus, I am aware of the significant impact EMU has had in our region. I am excited for the opportunity to be part of the continued progress that EMU has achieved in its long history.”

Newton is replacing Regent Rich Baird, who resigned due to the fact that he was under investigation in connection to the Flint Water Crisis. Newton’s term will be until Dec. 2026.

EMU student Hannah Palmer has created a non-profit organization called the Sunflower Project. The purpose of this organization is to help and educate those who are struggling with mental health. Palmer started the Sunflower Project because she has struggled with her own mental health, and hopes to help others through their mental health struggles. Palmer is the survivor of five suicide attempts and has struggled with self harm.

Palmer: I’ve always wanted to start an organization that could help people who are in a similar situation to myself in terms of being the atypical idea of someone with a mental illness. One of the reasons why I really did want to start this is that I had spoken to over thirty service organizations and shared my story, and the most common type of feedback that I received was, “How can I help someone experiencing a crisis, or what do I do if I can’t afford to receive treatment or resources?” And that’s what drew me into the mission statement for the Sunflower Project.

Hornyak: To help those struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, Palmer started the Facebook group called “Quarantine Unfiltered” which has gained over 600 members since May.

Currently, Palmer is planning to work with Ingham County Schools and speak to over 20,000 students about her story and the societal pressures surrounding mental health. She also plans to teach mental health first aid.

Jared Baker, who is a mental health specialist at Ingham Intermediate School District, gave this statement about the collaboration.

“Our hope is that Hannah can help to break down some of those walls of stigma and through sharing her story can provide some courage and open some doors for some of those youth who are afraid of that social judgement, they fear that stigma that comes along with maybe experiencing depression and anxiety which is really common right now.”

In the near future, The Sunflower Project plans to offer scholarships and grants to people who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses that want to pursue a college education or need psychiatric care. Palmer’s goal is to raise $10,000 and help 25 individuals by the end of the year.

For more information about the Sunflower Project you can email them at or visit their website at 

In honor of Women’s History Month, Eastern Michigan University’s Jewish Studies Apartment hosted a virtual concert and Q&A session with Mira Awad on Sunday, March 7 via Facebook live and YouTube. Awad is an Israeli and Palestinian singer, songwriter, and actress who advocates for women’s rights, equal citizenship among Palestinians living in Israel, and environmental awareness.

Dr. Shichtman who is the Director of Jewish Studies, had this to say about Mira Awad’s work and what it represents.

Shichtman: I’m hoping that people will take away from it the fact that there are people working for peace and collaboration.

I think that Awad gives us a look into society that many Jews and Palestinians do not often get because she is someone who is trying to find ways to have co-existence and collaboration. We have two sides that are often hardening towards each other, and what she’s doing is saying we have to find ways to talk together, we have to find ways to sing together, and we have to find ways to make art together.

Hornyak: As always thank you for listening. This episode was reported by Megan Forystek, and Emily Bernabe; scripted by Jasmine Boyd, and produced by Ethan Myers. I am your host Liz Hornyak and this is the Eastern Echo Podcast.