COLUMBIA — Pam Ingram said she remembers this line from a Martin Luther King Jr. speech: "Children are measured by the content of their character."
Character development is one of the missions for Granny's House, her nonprofit, volunteer-run center for educating and nurturing inner-city children.
Ingram said she saw the need for a center after noticing that children were roaming around after school with nothing to do. She decided to gather people "to pour their lives into the children of Columbia."
Pam Ingram and her husband, Ellis Ingram, were honored at Thursday morning's Columbia Values Diversity Celebration as the 2012 diversity award winners for individuals. They were recognized for promoting diversity and cultural understanding in the community.
"I was completely shocked," Pam Ingram said after winning the award.
At the event, Mayor Bob McDavid said the Ingrams exemplify King's teachings by empowering young people to achieve in spite of adversity.
An alumna of MU's journalism school, Ingram has been helping children in the community for decades. She grew up in public housing in Kansas City and now works with children of public housing in Columbia.
In the spring of 2001, she founded Granny's House as an after-school center. The center serves to connect Columbia's community and public housing residents.
"Granny's House is a place where hidden treasures can be unveiled," Ingram said.
She said she often refers to a story about her husband, Ellis Ingram, as an example of exposing children to the right elements. When he was 11 years old, his parents gave him a small plastic microscope. The gift sparked his interest and revealed the world of science.
Ellis Ingram went on to earn his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Michigan and completed his residency in Columbia. He is a doctor in anatomic and clinical pathology and the senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the MU School of Medicine.
He said the club started at home with inspiration from his children. He began meeting with them and their friends to explore the topics of medicine and science.
Children can enter the program in fifth grade, and it is run by mentors in high school, college and medical school. He is working on developing a leadership team, and said the plan is to be "the best student-run organization in the country."
The club meets weekly at various medical school locations and students learn about medical practices, covering things such as physical exams and brain dissections.