TRAVERSE CITY — Amy Burk had an idyllic childhood in the rural outskirts of Flushing, where she lived next door to her grandparents’ dairy farm.
But at 18, Burk’s life fell apart when her parents divorced, which caused her to cut short her college career. At 20, after a year of community college, she married a U.S. Marine and moved to a military base in North Carolina. At 21, she had twins — the first of the couple's four children.
Now Burk, of Mancelona, is devoted to removing barriers that prevent kids from finishing school, and to preparing them for future education. She is executive director of Communities In Schools of Mancelona, and oversees prevention and intervention services to students and families with a primary goal of increasing graduation rates in Mancelona.
“We typically say we’ll do what it takes,” from providing school supplies, tutoring and bully prevention assemblies to offering warm winter clothing, recreation and enrichment opportunities, said Burk, 43.
The self-described "small-town country girl" leads by example. She faced her own barriers to education but managed to go back to college when her third child was 2, shortly after her husband’s tour of duty ended and the couple moved to Traverse City.
“I still had that education itch in me,” said Burk, who in 1997 earned an associate degree in applied science from Northwestern Michigan College. “I knew the girls would grow up and I would be out seeking a job. I wanted to make sure I was a good candidate for whatever job came up.”
That job came along the next year at the Mancelona Family Center, a sort of one-stop shop for Mancelona area social services. Agencies and services include a health department dental clinic, a women’s resource center, child and adolescent health services, child and family services, and Catholic human services.