Siena Literacy Center History
History of Siena Literacy & Biography of Sister Mary Hemmen
The Adrian Dominican Sisters saw that there was a need for a literacy program for individuals from all walks of life. Sister Mary Hemmen offered to initiate this endeavor. The goal was to make available a literacy program for those who were in need of basic skills. She encountered people who had left the South seeking employment in the North who had not completed high school. She also encountered adults who wanted to advance their educational skills to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. Sister Mary Hemmen and other volunteer tutors were compelled by God to help His people.
Dominican High School located in Detroit had the Dominican Literacy Center housed in the convent on the east side. When Sister Mary and her team saw how great the cause was on the east side they saw the need to begin a literacy center on the west side of Detroit. Stepping out on faith, Sister Mary in October of 1995 began the Siena Literacy Center with twenty students and twelve to fifteen tutors at Bishop Borgess High School. They were at this location for ten years and served several thousand adults in basic reading and math skills and the English language.
From 2005 to 2010 the Siena Literacy resided at New Genesis Baptist Church located at 16161 Winston, in Detroit formerly known as Yost Elementary School. Siena Literacy relocated to Christ the King Convent located at 16888 Trinity during the month of July, 2010. The official opening celebration was Saturday, November 6, 2010 from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. The Siena Literacy Center has impacted and changed the lives of people in the richest, most positive, and rewarding ways. Fifty percent of the center’s operating budget comes from the Adrian Dominican Sisters through the Rich Rea Foundation. Federal Funds and benefactor donations complete the budget.
Sister Mary Hemmen continues to serve the people of God diligently and faithfully. She is actively involved with the center and also does other volunteer work within the community. We are blessed by God to have Sister Mary Hemmen as His humble servant and Founder of the Siena Literacy Center.