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Michigan State University
Spartan Sagas

John Shinsky
Alumnus, 1974, 1977, 1983
Lansing, Michigan

My name is John Shinsky, and I’m the founder of the City of Children orphanage in Matamoros, Mexico. At the age of eight, my father died and my mother had to make a decision on what to do with me because my neighborhood was very tough. She decided to send me to an orphanage, which was Parmadale, in Parma, Ohio, at the age of eight.
I was there for a few years, and then I went into a foster home, and then I was blessed to go to a great high school, Cleveland’s St. Joseph High School, and played football, wrestling, and track and a very good academic program, and that allowed me to be able to get a scholarship to Michigan State.
I’m not that patient, so I push people to get things done sooner rather than later. I think I like to do things that other people or other foundations are not willing to do. Our foundation likes doing things that need to be done. We don’t just sit around waiting for grant requests. We go out there looking for opportunities in all the areas we’re engaged in.

I like to say that civilizations are not remembered by their accountants or lawyers or business people. They’re remembered for their arts, and it’s been a great education for me. It’s broadened my thinking and so on. It helps create a better society, people that are interested in what’s going on, which is reflected in the arts, whether it’s in painting, sculpture, opera, symphony, and so on.

I was flying on a plane to Brownsville, Texas, and met a young man who was on his spring break trip. I asked him what he was doing and he said, “I’m going to this orphanage.” He says, “There’s rats and it’s awful.” I said, well send me something on it, and he sent me something on it. So, I went down there and visited with the people at the orphanage, and I asked them the question, “What can I do to help you?” And I expected they’d say food, clothing, and things like that, and they said, “We need a new orphanage.” It was at that time I knew that that was my calling, to serve in Matamoros, Mexico.
I use the word “calling” because it’s always been a passion of mine to be able to give back. I recognize the value of service and support because, being a former orphan, you really don’t have a family. When you get the opportunity to go to a university like Michigan State, and you have a quality education provided to you and so on, I recognize that that was a gift and a blessing that I received. It’s important that I give back and do the same thing for other young people. I think ever since I’ve been to Matamoros, I've probably helped out hundreds of children. We helped out children from another orphanage. We built nine buildings for another orphanage to serve those children. We’ve done a lot of things in the community of building homes for the poor.
Then of course, in our orphanage, we’ve served over 60 children so far in a three-year period. So, there’s a lot of need there and there’s a lot of opportunity there. But the most important thing from my perspective is, if you can help one child, to be able to make a difference in that child’s life, and if that child can grow up and have the opportunities that I had, and have the passion that I have for giving back, there’s no question in my mind that those children can change generations to come. They can eliminate poverty for several young children, and open up a world of opportunity for them, so that they can become successful and productive citizens in the future.