Engaged Metro Detroit couple boost west Mich. nonprofit

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Like many engaged couples, Hassan Sheikh and Sumaiya Ahmed are excited about their wedding and a future together. But the Metro Detroit pair’s nuptial plans have a slightly different take that extends far beyond loved ones and invitees.

Instead of gifts, they sought donations to School-to-Career Progressions, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit that works to help youths succeed in the classroom, workplace and community. The future bride and groom raised $2,050 — more than twice the original goal — in less than two months through LaunchGood.com. The contributions were sent this week, Ahmed said.

“Hassan and I grew up in an amazing community. We are blessed to have everything that we need. So we always said when we go about getting married, we want to give back,” she said. “Instead of focusing on us at this time, we wanted to help the community out and other students out.”

The couple got engaged in August. Sheikh, 28, is a Hamtramck city employee, and Ahmed, 24, is operations director at the Tutoring Center in Troy and communications director for the Michigan Muslim Community Council.

Both are committed to education, so giving to School-to-Career Progressions, seemed like a natural fit. The couple learned about the program online.

The nonprofit, which was launched in 2000, offers character coaching as well as career training programs benefiting hundreds of students at several Grand Rapids-area schools, executive director Michael Daniels said. Success coaches —including educators and trained professionals — work on life skills with youths in low-income communities, helping them to perform better in school and beyond, he said.

Donations spurred by Sheikh and Ahmed are expected to help fifth- and sixth-graders in Wyoming, Michigan, excel academically and prepare for careers through group and one-on-one attention they “normally wouldn’t get,” Daniels said. Besides enhancing the in-school initiative, the gifts also provide supplies and backpacks, he added.

The couple’s offer to help was the first to come from outside the Grand Rapids area, Daniels said.

“I was very surprised. At first I questioned and thought somebody was joking. … It’s supporting community leaders to do what they do best, and that’s help kids within their community. So to get a stranger to do it with no strings attached, and all they want to do is bless the kids — it’s very rewarding, and it reaffirms that we are in the right place and there are kind people who care.”

The chance to aid others, even far from Metro Detroit, is “a great investment,” Sheikh said. “It provides youths who may have had troubled backgrounds the ability to get school supplies, care they might not get in other situations. We’re giving them hope.”

He and Ahmed, who are both Muslim, say the altruistic act also reflects a tenet of their faith.

“It’s so important to give back and just do charity work and help those in need,” said Ahmed, who last month also chaired the MMCC volunteer coordination in the annual Mitzvah Day effort. “It’s a big portion of Islam that teaches that.”

Sheikh stressed that their religion wasn’t the lone motivator, and he and his fiancee hope to continue such efforts.

“Whenever that opportunity arises to help the community, we’ll definitely be taking it,” he said. “We love helping.”