She has a heart for her community and a passion for the younger generations. She doesn’t mind helping out wherever she needs to. If there is an issue at hand, she will not sit down and look. No, she is willing to join the fight and help bring change. This is why Mari Swayne is our Fly girl of the month.
Mariatu Abdullah Swayne was born in the month of October during the 70's. She grew up on the Westside of Indianapolis, Indiana in the neighborhood known as Haughville. Swayne attended Indiana Public Schools until third grade. She would complete her education in Wayne Township and graduate from Ben Davis High School. Swayne was raised in a single parent home with her mother. “My parents met at Lincoln University, in Jefferson City, Missouri”, said Swayne when asked about her parents. My parents divorced soon after I was born, which left my mom to raise me by herself. I grew up as an only child with my mom but on my father’s side, I am actually the oldest of four. My father is actually African, he is from Sierra Leone a country in West Africa and that is where Abdullah comes from. My mother is a phenomenal woman, she taught in IPS for 35 years. She made me do every activity and event I didn’t want to do. She made me learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. That has helped me as I gone along with my career in the community. I am not afraid to talk to different people but I wasn’t always that way. Growing up I was very shy and an introvert as a child".
Education has always been a major factor for Swayne. two-time degree alumni of Indiana State. Mari Swayne earned her Bachelor of Science degree in business education and her Master of Science degree in student affairs and higher education. Swayne worked with college students for 3 years at Miami of Ohio which is the public Ivy League school in Oxford, Ohio. From Ohio, she made her way back to Indianapolis where she would work for seventeen years in the MSD of Pike Township as a teacher, dean of students, assistant principal, and Career and Technical Education Director.”When I lived in Ohio I started getting homesick and I had gotten tired of living in a fishbowl so I wanted to come back home to Indianapolis”, stated Swayne.
"We called ourselves the dream team".
“I applied for a job and Larry Mccloud was the Human Resource director for Pike at the time, who called to tell me he would love for me to come work at Pike. I did my interview and was hired”. Swayne would teach 8 years as a business teacher at Pike until she noticed another need. “Pike had started to get a little off the hook and I had gotten tired of seeing kids every day who looked like me do whatever they wanted because no one was establishing order”, Swayne said. “I went back to school and got my administrators license to help bring change. We called ourselves the dream team. Mr. Inman was the principal and at the time Mr. Dobbs, Dr. Tauge, Mrs. Hernandez, and Mr. Cialdella were the assistant principals. I was the dean of students, Mrs. Gearries and Mr. Parquet was in the freshmen center. We shut it down, but we shut it down in a loving way, we knew there were other opportunities for our young people. We knew if kids had opportunities and people that cared about them, their behavior would change”.
"My grandmother would tell me to whom much is given, much is required".
During her younger years, Swayne would spend a lot of time with her grandmother in Haughville. "My grandmother would tell me to whom much is given, much is required", Swayne shared. My grandmother would participate in the senior programs at the Christamore House and I would participate in the summer camp. Sometimes if we needed extra money there would be things we would have to do and also there were programs to help support us. So I knew that community service was something that I needed to give back to because it really did help me. As I went to college, Christamore House gave me a scholarship every year". Because the community had given much to Swayne as a little girl, giving back was instilled in her, which was one of the reasons she joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Swayne has been a member of the organization for almost 27 years. She has done a lot of work for the organization on an international level as well as local. "I love the pretty girl image but that is not what it's about, it really is about uplifting and service to mankind, which is something I try to live by, which makes sense to what I do now in education".
"Humility is what makes me a Fly Girl".
Swayne understands the importance of remaining humble in a world that can boost your ego so easily. She considers herself a quiet storm but is learning how to start speaking up. "I have to speak up because I do have a presence and there are people looking up to me", said Swayne. Growing up Swayne didn't have everything she has now but she knew in order to have what she wanted in life, she must work for it. "Everything that I have is what I worked hard for. My only option was if I didn't do what I wasn't supposed to do. That's what I didn't want for myself. Someone like Swayne is determined to leave a lasting influence in generations after her. Her message to everyone especially girls is to have a plan for themselves." I want young girls to know that they can be anything in the world". She understands that it's not about her but it's about helping girls and women." I think we need to appreciate ourselves and love ourselves. We have to support each other and stop tearing each other down. I love to see melanin poppin young ladies, we are beautiful women. There is not another more beautiful woman than a woman of color".
"Like many other people, change is hard for me".
Swayne currently works at the McKenzie Center for Innovation & Technology (MCIT) in the MSD of Lawrence Township. She has been the director of the program for 5 months. "MCIT is considered by many to be the #1 Career & Technical Education Center in the State of Indiana", shared Swayne when asked about what she can bring to the program. "I hope to continue the legacy of great work that has been done in the past; as well as identify and seek out new career pathways that meet the current demand for employment in Indiana as well as identify cutting edge opportunities for my students".
Sometimes change can be a frightening thing but Mrs. Swayne has learned how to move with it especially when she left Pike Township for her new position. "Like many other people, change is hard for me; however, God kept telling me that this was where he wanted me to go. I fought it almost to the final hour; however, God prevailed and gave me this awesome opportunity that I am very grateful for. I loved being in Pike and left with no issues or concerns--it was just my time to try a new direction. I was ready for it and I'm ALL IN".
Mari Swayne has accomplished many things in her life but one of her proudest accomplishments is becoming a wife. She is married to Romel A. Swayne, who she met at Indiana State. "Because I grew up without my father around all the time and I seen my aunts and uncles married, I still didn't understand what it meant to be married. I didn't understand the sacrifices that you have in a marriage. I am married to a wonderful, God-fearing man. To know that I am married to someone who is committed, who is going to have my back and support me is amazing. When I have the rough days he's there and when I have the great days he's there. We don't agree every day, trust me on that but he is truly God sent".
"I come from greatness".
As Swayne continues to go through this life she is constantly learning about her history and family. "Even though I didn't know my father that well, he is a brilliant man. My grandfather was a world renown dentist from Sierra Leone the country where my father is from, he was the president's dentist. One of my half brothers is a world renown conductor who has traveled all over the world to conduct orchestras. I also learned that I have a brother who is second in command for city planning in St. Louis. I also learned that one of my brothers had a full scholarship from Ohio State but was murdered the week before he was going to go off to college. So I come from greatness, I just didn't know how great it was until reaching this age. So we always have something in us we just don't know how great it can be".
Mari Abdullah Swayne embodies a confident woman with charisma and character. She understands that she can't do anything without God and is thankful for the many blessings he continues to bring her way. The reason for her success is not flaunting what she has but remaining humble. "If you can understand humility and discretion than those are the keys to being successful". Mrs. Swayne is educated, bold, humble, beautiful and filled with a lot of wisdom. She is truly a Fly Girl.