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Michigan Nightlight relaunches: Here's where to find us across Michigan

We've made a few changes here at Michigan Nightlight. Find out how to keep up with stories about Michigan Kids around the state.

How Motivated Kids and Better Food Access Fit Together

At Sprout Urban Farms in Battle Creek, kids grow produce for a mobile food hub, which transports fresh food to neighborhoods that are lacking.

Jumping Ship: Former Corporate Leaders Tell All

Join Michigan Nightlight this month in Detroit and Grand Rapids for a special speakers series event, Jumping Ship: Leaders Who Left the Corporate Sector for the Social Sector. 

Flipping the Script on Teacher-and-Textbook Instruction

Detroit Future Schools artists use technology to open classrooms into spaces where students take ownership of their education.

Kids Discover the Power of Pedaling

After losing her car, Angela Stamps discovered a new way to see the world after being given a bike. She has since repaid the favor by showing kids the benefits of cycling in Flint. 

Practice for Poverty: Hunger Games

In Manistee, students go from classroom to grocery store and then into the kitchen to cook a meal they've purchased for very little money. 

Taking Young Poets To A Bigger Stage

A Flint-based arts group is helping young poets hone their talent with a goal to compete in an international youth poetry festival and slam contest. Along the way, they're making connections and spurring on other young spoken word artists.

Turning the Tide on Typical Low-Income Housing

Homes+Services, a pilot program of Neighborhoods, Inc. of Battle Creek, approaches housing in a holistic way; it partners with others for job training, education and financial counseling.

Care, Concern and Consistency Get Youth Back on Track

One Wyoming 1 on 1 uses the power of relationships to keep kids in school and on track. Adult mentors are matched with at-risk kids; early results show great promise.

Two Years and Running: Nightlight's Top Five Stories

While Michigan Nightlight’s mission is all about moving forward – covering forward thinkers and forward-looking programs and approaches – we figured our two-year anniversary is actually a great time to look back. We’re proud to share our top five stories, in terms of content read by the largest number of readers. Take a look or another look.

How to Build an Equitable Food System: Lessons from Battle Creek

Good Food Battle Creek wants to improve access to healthy food by bringing residents, growers, nonprofits, and other concerned folks together to address challenges in the local food system. 

Transforming Neighborhoods and Attitudes

Block By Block, a program of Team 313 youth development organization, is clearing trash-strewn lots and changing people’s minds about littering. However, its biggest success may be the values youth learn while keeping their neighborhoods clean.

Putting the Brakes on Bullying

End Bullying, Save Lives is a newly founded Grand Rapids nonprofit working to stop bullying. The organization’s three founders have all been victims of some form of bullying.

Long-time Children's Advocate Embraces New Role

As Matt Gillard takes the helm of Michigan’s Children, a statewide, nonpartisan advocacy group, he plans to move children’s issues up the priority list for elected officials. 

Transforming the Lives of First-Time Moms

Vulnerable first-time mothers are raising healthy kids with the help of visiting nurses in Detroit.

Making Piano Accessible for All Kids

Piano Labs gives some of Kalamazoo’s most vulnerable kids and young adults a chance to make music and become pianists. 

Fighting for Better Outcomes in Delray

Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition formed in response to plans for an international bridge development in the Delray neighborhood. Better park maintenance and a safer environment for local kids will help remedy the impact.

Teens Transform Raw Ideas into Poignant Performances

At Matrix School of Theatre in southwest Detroit, young people write and perform original plays that entertain and educate, bringing to the stage crucial issues in their lives. 

Supporting Girls in Technology

The Michigan Council of Women in Technology unites technology-minded girls and women of all age groups, inspiring and nurturing their interests and careers. 

The Fine Art of Parenting

Hardest job in the world? You betcha. Parenting Communities in Leelanau County helps with the challenges of parenting young children and preparing them for school success. 

Black Family Development's Faithful Shepherd

With faith, hard work, and strong partnerships, CEO Alice Thompson helps kids and families in southeast Michigan handle challenges with a holistic, culturally sensitive approach.

In Pursuit of a Fitter Detroit

Reid Thebault has spent 40 years with the YMCA -- the last 20 in metro Detroit -- and will retire later this year. While he presided over a period of expansion for the Y, he considers his true legacy to be the organization's risk-taking culture.

2020 Girls: Empowering Future Leaders in Science and Math

The 2020 Girls program develops a passion for STEM studies and careers in young girls in the Lansing area, engaging girls in traditionally male fields of study. 

Hip-Hop: Unifying Detroit Youth

Hip-hop gets a bad reputation, but a look outside the mainstream, at a small but powerful program for Detroit youth, provides a whole different view.

The Common Bond of Fatherhood

Grand Rapids’ dads, both new and seasoned, come together for learning and encouragement with the Proud Fathers Program. 

Family-Type Support for Foster Youth

An innovative program, Blue Babies, is reinventing foster care service in Michigan by providing round-the-clock family-type care and letting kids steer programming. Its work has helped create a community of foster care youth and alumni that help one another even after they age out of the system.

Impacting Wellness through Community Health Workers

Smart, caring, and with a keen eye on families, former Michigan Surgeon General Kimberlydawn Wisdom believes that community health workers are one route to improving public health and reducing health inequities in our most disadvantaged neighborhoods. 

Power Brokers Listen Up: Invest in Families

Heaster Wheeler speaks up for people when the promise of equal opportunity rings hollow. Renewed investment in Detroit means little if people in the neighborhoods don't benefit.

Michigan Nightlight: New, Improved

While remaining true to our mission to provide solutions, news and inspiration for those working to impact the lives of Michigan kids, Michigan Nightlight is pleased to unveil a new, enhanced format and other site improvements.

Putting Vacant Housing to Good Use

The 19:1 Campaign in Grand Rapids is all about turning vacant houses into functioning residences for homeless families who need them.

Peggy Roberts

Power of We Consortium coordinator Peggy Roberts works to improve conditions and access to resources for Ingham, Clinton and Eaton County’s most underserved populations – with social justice, equity and sustainability always at the forefront. 

Mary Gehrig

Mary Gehrig, superintendent for early childhood services at Calhoun Intermediate School District, hesitates to take accolades for her accomplishments; she gladly hands them to her associates. They are the ones, she says, who put visions, plans, ideas, and initiatives into motion to help young people.

Casey Stratton

Casey Stratton, music program coordinator and instructor at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth, strongly believes that music is important to all cultures as a way of expression and to keep their stories alive. He is helping youth create their own stories as they learn music and build relationships with caring adults through the Music Makers program. 

Kathy Catania

Decades ago, Kathy Catania and her husband Jerry laid the groundwork for today’s Benton Harbor arts district. Their pride and joy is housed inside a Victorian building, circa 1898, now home to Main Street Glassworks, where glass is blown, children grow, and art is internationally renowned.

Bonnie Billups, Jr.

Bonnie Billups, Peace Neighborhood Center executive director, is an alumnus who has been involved with Peace since he first participated at ten years old. Billups is a successful, college-educated, professional product of the center’s efforts to keep kids on the right track – a living example of the organization’s long-time efforts to help at-risk Ann Arbor area children achieve their dreams through prevention and education.

Frank McGhee

As the leader of Neighborhood Service Organization’s Youth Initiative Project (YIP), Frank McGhee sees the potential of young people from some very tough neighborhoods; he guides them through the process of addressing issues that trouble their community, and they grow as leaders along the way. 

Yvonne Davis

Yvonne Davis retired in 2008 from a career as an elementary teacher and educational administrator, but rejoined the workforce in 2010 with Lift Up Through Literacy, a program of Kalamazoo Public Schools. Since she has always had a focus on family, she considers her executive directorship a dream job, allowing her to connect with parents and children through the program.  

Jo Ann Cribbs

Children need positive role models both inside and outside their families says Jo Ann Cribbs, who oversees youth programming for the Urban League of Battle Creek. While educators play a vital, day-to-day part, Cribbs feels strongly that parents are a child’s strongest influence when it comes to education. Cribbs strives to better the lives of local children and involves parents in programming too. 

Paula Brown

Paula Brown is excited to be the new executive director of Reading Works, an umbrella organization that provides resources to partner nonprofits that are delivering quality literacy programs in metro Detroit. She works with these partners to reach more adult learners and to accurately measure and report on their collective success, with a common goal of bringing every adult up to a minimum ninth grade reading level.

Winona Bynum

Winona Bynum, youth and nutrition programs manager at Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan, likens her work in the nonprofit sector to her past work in IT project management. Similar to technology projects, human service programs – like the children’s feeding programs she oversees – need stakeholder input and strong collaborations to be successful. 

Kayla Mason

Raised in South Central Los Angeles, a low-income community where youth face many challenges to success, Kayla Mason found her voice at the young age of 15 advocating for improvements in schools and in the community. While the path to get here has been laced with many organizing victories, she is mighty fired up about her role as director of YOUTH VOICE, an organization of Detroit youth who tackle political and social issues to create change. Mason has even developed her own trademarked model to help youth become agents of change in their own life and in their community. 

Kwamena Mensah

Community organizer, farmer, teacher and change maker are among the hats worn by Kwamena Mensah, agriculture specialist and consultant with Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. As a pioneer in the urban agriculture movement, he has played a huge role in the reform of Detroit’s food system. 

Tori Pelz

CultureWorks Institute for Creative Arts is a Holland-based center with art at its heart and Tori Pelz at its helm. She oversees hundreds of underserved 6th to 12th grade students from the Ottawa and Holland public school districts who come hungry to learn creative arts that they would otherwise not have the chance to experience. 

Dan Varner

Few things are as fundamental to a child’s success as a quality education, and Dan Varner, CEO of Excellent Schools Detroit, is committed to making sure all Detroit children attend a school that helps them achieve their dreams and reach their potential. 

Sarah Lenhoff

As a teacher in New York City Public Schools in the early 2000s, Sarah Winchell Lenhoff saw how inadequacies in the public school system created barriers to learning for children. Today, as director of policy and research at Education Trust-Midwest, Lenhoff works to impact education policy, helping to shape policies to improve instruction in the classroom and, in turn, produce better outcomes for Michigan students.  

Amrutha Nagarajan

Former teacher Amrutha Nagarajan is the executive director of the new Michigan Network of The Achievement Network, which is charged with guiding and improving instruction in 15 Detroit schools. Having been an ANet coach in Washington, D.C., Nagarajan, a Michigan native, is excited to bring change and opportunity to students in Detroit.

Colleen Matts

Colleen Matts, farm to institution specialist at the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, has seen kids become great farm to school ambassadors, taking their parents by the hand, sharing their knowhow about the value of locally grown food, and even telling parents where to purchase it. Matts sees kids leading the farm to school cause -- just as much as she is. 

Leah Kelley

With collaboration and positive social change in the driver’s seat, Leah Kelley of Allen Neighborhood Center in Lansing is motivating youth to think more about their role in creating positive shifts in community health. She leads the center’s Youth Service Corps, which engages community youth in food access projects through hands-on work and learning activities. 

Jen Rusciano

When Jennifer Rusciano was in fourth grade, she explored the origins of her favorite chocolate bar, connecting it to cocoa farms in Ghana. Years later, a college fellowship led her to live and work in small-scale cocoa farming communities around the world, exploring the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. After that, she joined FoodCorps in Michigan for two years, and eventually helped develop Detroit Food Academy, where she currently serves as executive director of operations. 

Susan K. Ledy

Since 1983, Susan Ledy, with a background in teaching, has been at the helm of the Literacy Center of West Michigan working to improve literacy in a way that positively impacts adults, families, companies, schools and the entire community. 

Marjorie Kuipers

Marjorie Kuipers is concerned for kids who do not have enough food, who lack coats, boots and mittens to warm them, and who lack the opportunity to spike their grades with no-cost tutors or share what they learn with their families. Kuiper is the executive director of Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities, an organization that provides academic and social enrichment. She cares deeply about making a difference in the lives of struggling families.  

Ann Kalass

When Ann Kalass, chief executive officer of Starfish Family Services in Inkster, was growing up, she realized early on that not all children had the same opportunities as she did. Today, she’s driven to make sure vulnerable kids get the education they need to start off life with a strong footing.

Amanda Good

Concerned about the safety, security, and futures of homeless and vulnerable young women and girls, Amanda Good, CEO of Alternatives For Girls, has been leading efforts in Detroit to provide support, shelter, help, and hope to at-risk youth for a quarter of a century.

Michele Legleitner

Michele Legleitner is program director for Runaway and Homeless Youth Regional Alliance, a fledgling organization that formed last year to better meet the needs of runaway, homeless, and disconnected youth in metro Detroit. She is charged with keeping the four alliance members working together, sharing data and infrastructure costs, and meeting their defined objectives.

A.J. Jones

Dr. A.J. Jones was raised in Battle Creek. But his was not a comfortable life; his family of seven barely scraped by, with no regular well-child exams or trips to the dentist. As CEO of the Family Health Center of Battle Creek, Jones is determined to help those in need to break the cycle of poverty through access to quality healthcare. 

Sonya Grant-White

Sonya Grant-White, field coordinator for Community Action Against Asthma, which conducts community-based participatory research projects on air quality it Detroit, believes that a clean environment and better health outcomes for children are more important today than ever before. With passion and commitment, she says that no child should have to live next to a landfill, incinerator, factory or highway and breath unhealthy air.

Dona Abbott

Dona Abbott, branch director at Grand Rapids’ Bethany Christian Services, is a leader with many goals – all with happy, loving children and families at the forefront. When faced with demanding challenges that necessitate change, Abbott does not shy away from the resolve it takes to make changes that help and protect those she serves.  

Dianne Shaffer

Advocacy Services for Kids is an agency devoted to supporting families and bettering children’s mental health in Kalamazoo County. Its director, Dianne Shaffer, leads with solid faith in teamwork – both within her organization and outside of it, joining with community partners who share the same goals. 

Dr. Veneese V. Chandler

Dr. Veneese Chandler worries about kids. She worries about their families, their education, and their physical and emotional well-being. As the head of the Family Outreach Center in Grand Rapids, she is confronted with these issues daily, but finds solace in her work and confidence in being backed by a staff with extensive experience and involvement in children’s welfare. 

Sabrina Corbin

Starr Commonwealth has pioneered programs to improve the lives of the most world’s vulnerable children since 1913. Sabrina Corbin leads the international organization’s Battle Creek campus, helping academically and socially challenged young people. With various residential and day treatment programs, she and her staff strive to alleviate pain and instill hope among young people who have given up on themselves and have been tossed aside by society.

Liz Youker

Liz Youker, educational director of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, wants to ensure that every elementary-aged child in Kalamazoo Public Schools has an opportunity to play the violin, cello, flute or oboe. Working toward that goal, she oversees Kids in Tune, which she considers a great career accomplishment.

Emilio Zamarripa

As a young man, Emilio Zamarripa helplessly watched two close friends drop out of high school. Good kids. Not the failures or ‘losers’ that society branded them afterward. Quite simply, they had no support systems. Zamarripa, a youth advocate for the Honoring our Youth program at Steepletown Neighborhood Services in Grand Rapids, is occasionally haunted by that memory, but it’s part of what pushed him to realize that no child is lost, ever.

Louis Glazer

Louis Glazer runs a think tank that helps communities be successful by preparing their youth for college and by retaining talented young people. Glazer, president of Michigan Future, Incorporated, works to launch open enrollment high schools in Michigan that prime urban teens for college without the need for remediation.

Jeff Sturges

Jeff Sturges came to Detroit with the idea that the damaging effects of poverty and racism can be overcome by handing people tools to create the life they want. He’s done that by founding Mt. Elliot Makerspace, where he emphasizes the need for people to look outside traditional structures to accomplish their goals.

Amy Harris

Amy Harris, director of the University of the Michigan Museum of Natural History in Ann Arbor, understands the importance of learning outside the classroom and how it affects the young people who discover what a museum has to offer. With a passion to expand minds through museum-sponsored experiences, Harris lures children to the wonders of natural history with exciting exhibits and innovative programming.

Lisa Machesky

As executive director of the Baldwin Center in Pontiac, Lisa Machesky sees daily the growing divide between rich and poor. She envisions a future where every child has an equal chance for success, and Baldwin Center’s enrichment and education programs for kids and basic needs assistance for families mean Pontiac children have a better footing for the future.

Bridget Clark Whitney

Since childhood, Bridget Clark Whitney, executive director of Kids’ Food Basket in Grand Rapids, has known that serving underprivileged people was her calling. She has devoted her entire career to ending childhood hunger, helping to make sure that thousands of children in greater Grand Rapids and Muskegon do not go to bed hungry.

Chet Decker

Each month, Chet Decker, executive director of Hope Center in Macomb, is responsible for feeding around 1,700 children through the client choice food pantry that he runs. Cuts to government emergency food funding, coupled with increased food costs, have Decker worried about funding at a time when there are more mouths to feed in Macomb County.  

Amy Amador

Mercy Education Project's mission is to provide educational opportunities, life skills development and cultural enrichment for women and girls who have limited access to resources to enable them to improve the quality of their lives.

Pat Sosa VerDuin

Pat Sosa VerDuin leads Ready for School with a passion for preparing children for school and for encouraging their parents to be informed and engaged. When parents, volunteers and community are all engaged in early childhood education, everyone wins.

Alice Brinkman

Alice Brinkman, executive director of REACH Studio Art Center in Lansing, approaches her role as a leader with passion. And although leadership doesn’t come as naturally as she would like, Brinkman is determined to confront difficult situations and learn better ways of doing things all in the name of growing a great neighborhood art center.

Anita Bates

As a working artist and ninth grade art instructor at Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies, Anita Bates engages teens in the art of expression and creativity. She sees progress when students push themselves and make critical decisions independently with respect to their own art and design projects. 

Terry Blackhawk

Melding together the talents and energy of professional creative writers and students, Terry Blackhawk, Ph.D., founder of InsideOut Literary Arts Project, has been helping to turn Detroit kids into authors and poets since 1995. 

Lorena Slager

Lorena Slager taught art after graduating from Calvin College with a degree in art education. Then she opened a coffee shop, The Sparrows Coffee Tea & Newsstand, and most recently co-founded the Creative Youth Center, a nonprofit that empowers kids through writing. As executive director, Slager proudly works from the center’s new digs on Wealthy Street. 

Dennis Nordmoe

Dennis Nordmoe of Urban Neighborhood Initiatives believes that real change starts small in creating a better environment for a neighborhood, a street, or even a block. Since 1997, he’s worked to empower residents of the Springwells neighborhood to improve their community.

Roberta Lucas

Roberta Lucas, early learning director and training specialist for Living Arts’ ACT 1 program, grew up with a costume shop in the attic and a puppet theater in the basement, and produced outdoor productions each summer with other neighborhood kids. With the same enthusiasm, she is bringing artistic expression into Detroit classrooms to build literacy and encourage young students to create, express, grow and learn.

John Weiss

John Weiss was fortunate enough to discover his passion for working with youth early in his career. In his current position as executive director at the Neutral Zone, a teen center in Ann Arbor, he channels this passion by ensuring that youth are involved and engaged at every level of the organization.

Rachel Klegon

Rachel Klegon, executive director of Green Living Science, provides a blueprint for Detroit schools to teach scientific concepts to students within an environmental framework. She sees kids and families take ownership of their behaviors and use their newly learned green knowledge to do what is right for their households, neighborhoods, and the greater community. 

Glenda Price

Glenda Price, president of Detroit Public Schools Foundation, knows that when she needs advice or help, a network of colleagues is there to support her work. As leader of a nonprofit that provides resources for value-added programs and activities for schools, Price works hard to strengthen the educational process for Detroit kids.

Sharon Loughridge

As executive director of Grand Rapid’s D.A. Blodgett - St. John’s, the largest child welfare agency in west Michigan, Sharon Loughridge, believes that many of the barriers facing vulnerable children can be torn down by a human hand. D.A. Blodgett - St. John’s 22 programs work to keep families in tact, but when children can no longer stay in their homes it also provides shelter, foster care, and adoption services. 

Rashid Faisal

Rashid Faisal, principal of Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies in Detroit, is excited to be an educator in this day and age as we shift from an industrial society to a knowledge-based society. He says that it’s time for schools, like the public middle and high school academy he leads, to abandon archaic practices and embrace new practices that evolve and change with our ever-changing world.

Michael W. Hamm

Michael W. Hamm, director of the MSU Center for Regional Food System, and his staff are devoted to the good health and development of all Michigan youth. The center’s creative programs and initiatives, like Michigan Good Food and Hoophouses for Health, are helping to ensure that more children have balanced, produce-rich diets. 

Greg Locke, Jr.

Greg Locke, Jr. leads The First Tee of Battle Creek, introducing hundreds of kids in Battle Creek to golf through summer programs, school involvement, and more. He finds funding for every child who wants to play golf, whether they can pay the program fee or not. A lifelong passion for the game mixed with a strong love of kids is the recipe for Locke’s success.  

David Gamlin

David Gamlin is a leader with a vision. A first-generation college student himself, he strives to ensure that every young person who goes through his Detroit-based program is armed with the knowledge that a support system exists to help with many issues that today’s post-secondary students face.

Denise Nightingale

Denise Nightingale has been running for most of her life. Her two young sons love to run too, but until March, they had no running club. That’s when the at-home mom took it upon herself to launch one at Saginaw’s Handley Elementary School. Her goal was to introduce 25 students to the sport with a Kids Run the Nation Saginaw pilot. A whopping 44 kids signed on and are running their hearts out.

Kirk Latimer

Kirk Latimer believes healing happens when youth tell the story of their struggles to a live audience. As educational director of Speak it Forward, Inc., based in Kalamazoo, Latimer teaches teens to find and express their voice through the spoken word arts.

Kim Dabbs

As executive director of West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT), Kim Dabbs believes that all young people should have equal access to choices that will help them realize their potential. WMCAT’s Teen Arts Program helps to remove barriers to opportunity so that kids can flourish. 

Dr. Marijata Daniel-Echols

With a background in research, policy, and evaluation in the early childhood education arena, Starfish Family Services’ new vice president of early childhood policy and programs, Dr. Marijata Daniel-Echols, has learned to welcome progress in large or small doses. She brings a wealth of expertise and experience to the Inkster-based private nonprofit in hopes of improving life outcomes for vulnerable children.

Judy Watson Olson

As president and CEO of Great Lakes Center for Youth Development in Marquette, Judy Watson Olson networks with nonprofit agencies and community leaders to garner support for youth-serving organizations in the Upper Peninsula.

Sarna Salzman

After earning a master’s degree in community development at UC Davis, Sarna Salzman returned to Michigan in 2001, reconnecting with friends who had founded Traverse City-based SEEDS two years earlier. Salzman refers to her executive directorship as that of a professional networker, facilitating connections that strengthen ties between ecology, education, and design. 

Carol Hofgartner

As the founder and executive director of Art Road Nonprofit, Carol Hofgartner is inspired by art and sees how artistic creativity feeds so many careers. That’s why her goal is to have art class brought back to every school classroom in Detroit. 

Ann Raftery

Ann Raftery can rest easy knowing the impact she is making through her work as director of sleep programs at Sweet Dreamzzz, a program that teaches good sleep habits to southeast Michigan children and their parents. She wants all children to have a fair chance at learning and growing up healthy and has designed effective curricula to help make that happen.  

Lynn Whalen

On a daily basis, Lynn Whalen, women’s advocate at Mel Trotter Ministries, sees women experiencing life-changing transformation. Serving homeless people in the Grand Rapids area, Whalen oversees the agency’s shelter for women and children. 

Dr. Nkechy Ekere Ezeh

Dr. Nkechy Ezeh, CEO for the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, says in the early years she sometimes felt like the only voice advocating for vulnerable children in Grand Rapids. Today, she says, there is still a long way to go, but "at least the journey has now started."

Barbara Israel and Ricardo Guzman

Shared commitment and shared leadership at the Detroit Urban Research Center between director Barbara Israel, board member Ricardo Guzman, and others has helped this organization effectively address community health issues for 18 years. The Detroit URC conducts research and implements programs and policy strategies to reduce health inequities and improve health in Detroit neighborhoods. 

Chris Sargent

Chris Sargent embodies a focused, collaborative leadership style. As vice president and chief operating officer of The United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, he believes that solutions come from the collective efforts of people with knowledge and passion to create change – including the direct recipients of programs United Way supports.  

Dorothy Pintar

Dorothy Pintar, director of the School Success Partnership at Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency in Alpena, works to make sure all kids have the opportunity and possibility to succeed in school and live out their dreams. 

Anji Phillips

Many vulnerable kids and their families need help, and Anji Phillips is dedicated to helping them. As executive director of the Coordinating Council of Calhoun County, Phillips leads with passion and fights for the rights of the underserved, the unseen, and the unrecognized with a team of strong child advocates beside her.

Jason Lee

Jason Lee, Executive Director of the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP), believes that if children have a solid education rooted in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and are prepared to pursue a career as an engineer, they can do anything. A recent survey of program participants showed that 90 percent of respondents graduated from high school.  

Christopher McCoy

Christopher Jay McCoy, executive director of New Level Sports and senior pastor of Faith Assembly Christian Fellowship Church in Battle Creek, believes that leaders are trailblazers. Through his work, local kids are experiencing healthy relationships through mentoring and finding success in school, while negative cultural stereotypes are lessoned.  

Jeannine Gant

After spending two decades in the nonprofit sector working in development and fundraising, Jeannine Gant wanted to become more directly involved in the ideas that make change. So, in 2010, she became executive director of Playworks, a national organization new to Detroit teaching the power of meaningful play.

Dr. Leonard Seawood

Dr. Leonard Seawood walked into a failing school district almost three years ago and immediately began making the tough choices it took to undo two decades worth of decline. As superintendent of the Benton Harbor Area Schools, Seawood did not walk a smooth path, but his district has been on the comeback trail ever since. 

Ethan Lowenstein

Ethan Lowenstein, director of the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS) in Ypsilanti, believes that future environmental stewards first need to understand cultural attitudes toward nature. Once understood, kids can build appreciation and respect for the environment – and learn how to take personal and community responsibility for the eco-system where we all live. 

Kristin Martinez

Kristin Martinez, environmental education manager for The Greening of Detroit, experiences a sense of awe when the environmental concepts she teaches in school classrooms click with students when they see them outdoors. She leads groups of urban kids into the wilds of Detroit’s largest city park through the Our LAND program, empowering them to be good stewards of their own neighborhoods and surroundings.  

Martha Gonzalez-Cortes

A west Michigan native from a farm worker household, Martha Gonzalez-Cortez now leads the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan. She stands up for social justice issues and is finding effective ways for Hispanic youth to find school and life success. 

Kuhu Saha

A 2008 graduate of the University of Michigan, Kuhu Saha brings all the positivity, energy, and enthusiasm of youth to her job as executive director of Give Merit’s FATE program. Give Merit is the nonprofit arm of clothing company Merit Goodness and receives 20 percent of the brand’s revenues to fund and develop programs such as FATE.

Laurie Strauss Baumer

Marrying her passion for volunteerism and being the creator of your own opportunity, Ele’s Place President and CEO Laurie Strauss Baumer shares how her organization uses relationships as pavers in the road to success. 

Karen Gray Sheffield

Karen Gray Sheffield oversees multiple St. John Providence programs that benefit children, including Open Arms, which provides grief therapy for southeast Michigan children. She sees progress in an increased awareness around grief issues, with more people recognizing when children need grief support.

Lori Antkoviak

Five years ago, Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center was in dire straights, leaving too many sexually abused and neglected children under served, according to its current executive director, Lori Antkoviak. A lifelong champion of children, she swiftly turned things around, substantially expanding services, including educational outreach, and medical attention, counseling, and temporary shelter for Allegan County’s abused youth.

Dorceta E. Taylor

A full stomach should not be a luxury. And sharp pains of hunger should never be the norm. Dr. Dorceta Taylor, a professor at University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, recently embarked on a five-year, federally funded research study on food insecurity in Michigan. She is identifying the state’s most underserved and beginning to connect them with the resources they need to have the simple dignity of regular, nutritious meals.

Ponsella Hardaway

MOSES Executive Director Ponsella Hardaway believes in the power of community organizing to change things for the better; not just lip service, but real, honest, open dialogue between people to find common cause. It’s sometimes difficult and uncomfortable, but she says it’s the only way to make real change. 

Rick Huisman

Rick Huisman’s winding career path has taken him from professional baseball player with the Kansas City Royals to entrepreneurship with a family business to his current role as executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth. He was first introduced to the organization through volunteer work during his time with the Royals.

Dara Munson

After working in the juvenile justice field and the United Way, Dara Munson became President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit in 2007. Munson is passionate about the mentoring organization that opens doors for Detroit youth and helps them to achieve greatness.

Travis Williams

Leader Travis Williams has worked for the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway since its 2000 inception and has been thoroughly involved with the nonprofit’s development. Williams uses experience in business development, nonprofit management, strategic planning and partnerships to drive the center’s growth and advancement.

Carrie Spencer

In sharing the natural world with children, Carrie Spencer, a naturalist at Seven Ponds Nature Center in Dryden, leads by example, letting the wonderment and peace she feels outdoors set the stage for students to learn about and become stewards for southeast Michigan’s natural resources.

Rhonda Buckley

After extensive education in music and business, more than a decade of teaching experience, and the eventual founding of a multidisciplinary arts center for inner-city youth in Washington, DC, Rhonda Buckley was lured back to Michigan when MSU asked her to serve as associate dean of the College of Music -- and develop a community music program in Detroit, her hometown. 

Aaron Dworkin

Aaron Dworkin is a 2005 MacArthur fellow, President Obama’s first appointee to the National Council on the Arts, and founder and president of the Sphinx Organization. He’s dedicated to providing young people of color in Detroit and Flint the opportunity to succeed in classical music, however they define that dream.

Sandra L. Standish

Sandra Standish has been a staunch and prolific child advocate in Kalamazoo County for over three decades. The former Superintendent of Comstock Public Schools now leads Kalamazoo County Ready 4s, an initiative that strives to make sure all young children in the county have access to high-quality pre-kindergarten education. In just one year, Ready 4s has doubled its enrollment.

Timothy J. Bartik

Dr. Timothy Bartik, author and economist, is an outspoken proponent of universal preschool and a research expert in the areas of early childhood education and state and local economic development. His opinion, in both realms, is that equity matters more than almost anything, and he has written several books on this subject matter.  

Kari Pardoe

Kari Pardoe believes that children can accomplish whatever they want and that drive, direction, and leadership can start with service learning. As director of The LEAGUE Michigan, a program for service, service learning, and philanthropy education, Pardoe sees amazing results with youth, who though they have little themselves, find ways to give to back. 

Sharlonda Buckman

Investing in children, by way of helping parents become better advocates, is the driving force behind Sharlonda Buckman, CEO of Detroit Parent Network. She espouses that it's everyone’s job to ensure that every child is in a winning position.

Anan Ameri

Anan Ameri is founding director of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, but she doesn’t want the museum to be seen as only for and about Arab-Americans. It’s a point of pride that the museum has become a resource for multi-cultural programming, helping to overcome segregation in metro Detroit.

Melanie Beelen

Executive Director Melanie Beelen wraps her heart around the children and families at Baxter Community Center in Grand Rapids. A good measure of success, Beelen says, is to be able to look a small child right in the eyes, at her own level, speak to her, and then to simply listen. And she does so. Every day.  

Carlo Sweeney

In 2005 at the age of 32, Carlo Sweeney used his life savings to start the Downtown Boxing Gym with the aim of helping Detroit kids avoid the pitfalls that befell him as an inner city teen. The program combines the discipline of boxing with a strong focus on academics, community, and family bonds.

Norman Bent

After two decades as an administrator at Wayne State University, Norman Bent decided to take a year sabbatical. But he wasn’t idle for long. Through his involvement in southwest Detroit’s Latino community, he was soon tapped to lead the Consortium of Hispanic Agencies, and a new career was born.

Penny Bailer

City Year Detroit’s Executive Director, Penny Bailer, is a 37-year resident of Detroit with a firm grasp on the vital need for education improvement in Detroit. With a zest that is rare and unmistakable, Bailer oversees the many mentoring, educational, and enrichment programs that City Year offers to the city’s underserved youth.

Bob Randels

Over three decades, Bob Randels has watched food banking in Michigan grow from a grass-roots initiative to a cross-state system of well-run, food distribution hubs. The Food Bank of South Central Michigan’s executive director derives satisfaction from his work and continues to develop new ways to supply nutrition to the hungry.     

Janet McPeek

Janet McPeek brings her extensive work as a psychologist, and a passion for changing outcomes for vulnerable kids, to her position leading Crossroads for Youth and its many youth programs. Educating the public and promoting the value of each at-risk young person is the focus that drives her to study, modify, and improve Crossroads initiatives. 

Laura Hughes

Executive Director Laura Hughes measures her work at the Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park not just by the numbers, but by the spark of belief that youth have in themselves – a belief that was likely extinguished until they walked through the doors of the Ruth Ellis Center.  

Amy Sumerton

826michigan In-school Residency Program Director Amy Sumerton wants all kids to see their value as individuals and as members of their community. Through the small group and one-on-one writing program that she oversees in Ypsilanti schools, kids are encouraged to find their unique voice through writing. 

Jo Anne Mondowney

Jo Anne Mondowney, executive director of the Detroit Public Library, calls herself an accidental librarian, drawn to the profession by the library’s ability to improve quality of life for anyone regardless of economic resources. Encouraging her staff to take risks and be independent is a hallmark of her leadership style.

Jodi Johnson

Young Adult Librarian Jodi Johnson has created a safe and stimulating sanctuary for local kids at Ypsilanti District Library’s Michigan Avenue Branch. It’s built on mutual respect and trust. As the adult guide of the Teen Advisory Group, Johnson sees the at-risk kids who participate taking responsibility and learning from their leadership experience. 

Alice Christensen

Alice Christensen, a nurse, has chaired the Michigan Breastfeeding Network as a volunteer since 2009. She recently wrote a grant proposal and was awarded a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to transition the network from an all-volunteer organization into a more structured and formalized nonprofit.

Kolmarge Harris

As someone who grew up on the streets of Chicago, Kolmarge Harris knows first hand the challenges urban kids face. After retiring from a 20-year career as a professional boxer, Harris started Lansing Spartans Youth Organization to combine his love for boxing with his desire to mentor at-risk youth in his community.

Peggy Vander Meulen

Peggy Vander Meulen heads up Strong Beginnings, a program that works to lessen disparities and improve statistics for low income and at-risk women and their infants living in Grand Rapids. Her compassion and concern for these issues and for the women she works with are apparent.

Scott Alan Davis

Scott Alan Davis left his work in the private sector 15 years ago to do what he loves: serve youth and serve community. As the Vanguard Community Development Corporation’s executive director, Davis strives to help kids reach their full potential and then watches them learn to serve others as they step confidently into adulthood.

Cheryl Simon

Cheryl Simon gained her wisdom and knowledge from years in Detroit’s nonprofit sector before taking on the coordinating role with Detroit Food Policy Council, a group shaping food policy and championing a more just and environmentally conscious local food system. She invites those most impacted by food policy to the table to partake in both the discussion and the decisions. 

Malik Yakini

In 2006, Malik Yakini organized a meeting of about 40 people to discuss food security issues; at that meeting, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network was born. Yakini recently won a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award for his work to ensure social justice, food equity, and food security for the people of Detroit.

Daniel Carney

People need the freedom to make mistakes in order to nurture innovation without fear, says National Kidney Foundation of Michigan’s CEO Daniel Carney. Creating an environment where new leaders can flourish is key to his leadership style. 

Marsialle D. Arbuckle

It’s rare for an agency founder and leader to have real-life familiarity with the problems facing vulnerable youth. But Marsialle Arbuckle grew up in the foster care system -- making him the most valuable asset to Detroit’s Center for Urban Youth and Family Development. His agency helps those transitioning from foster care secure safe places to live. 

Minsu Longariu

Minsu Longariu, executive director of the Restaurant Opportunity Center of Michigan, believes in the power of people coming together to create change. Whether that happens around a restaurant table or in a community meeting, Longariu says that working together is the best way to overcome big challenges.

Danielle Sielatycki

Danielle Sielatycki asserts that large-scale social change happens best with broad cross-sector coordination -- not isolated individual programs. As executive director of Prevention Works, Inc., she leads efforts to educate Kalamazoo area youth on the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and violence.

Alison Heeres

A former volunteer for Cooking Matters courses, Alison Heeres is now in charge of educational programming for The Next Urban Chef, a program that educates Detroit youth on local food systems and sustainability while teaching valuable culinary skills. 

Amy Berkhoudt

Amy Berkhoudt brings a relative newcomer’s fresh perspective to Detroit’s issues, along with an unwavering belief in the potential of the city’s youth. She also brings energy and passion to bear in her work as co-director of the Detroit Youth Food Brigade.

Oran Hesterman

Fair Foods Network’s president and CEO Oran Hesterman, Ph.D., is a passionate leader, author, and promoter of good nutrition for vulnerable children and families. Using strong public-private partnerships and carefully measuring program impact, Fair Food Network is a leader in improving access to healthy, fresh food for Michigan residents.

Heidi Cate

Lighthouse Academy is the safety net for academically struggling and socially misplaced students. Superintendent Heidi Cate discusses helping those students readjust and achieve goals that some would call impossible.

Susan Reed

Supervising attorney Susan Reed is inspired by the strength and resiliency of her clients at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. The center is creating a more equal future for all children and building a base of support for immigrants in the communities where they live. 

Thomas Costello

Inspired by his Jesuit education and the Jesuit philosophy of service to others -- and deeply committed to a more just and inclusive world -- Thomas Costello ditched the private sector in 2008 to become president of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion.

Lisa Mitchell

Working to end racism, Lisa Mitchell, executive director of Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism (GRACE), brings workshops and assessment programs to educational, nonprofit and workplace settings through a program called Partners for a Racism-Free Community.

Charlie Cavell

At an age when most young people focus on their social lives, Charlie Cavell saw a problem: youth unemployment in Detroit. While still a student at Wayne State, he founded the Pay It Forward Initiative. The program helps connect underserved young people with employment opportunities.

Cheryl Schuch

For most of her career, Cheryl Schuch used her marketing and networking skills in the private sector. For the last three years, she has put those social talents to work as executive director of Family Promise of Grand Rapids, overseeing programs that assist homeless families to achieve lasting independence and self-sufficiency.

Ronald K. Nelson

Ronald K. Nelson heads the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids with confidence in the positive social changes the organization promotes. He is committed to offer low-income children healthy nutritional information, physical fitness opportunities, and more -- taking programming on the road and into neighborhoods as needed.     

Joseph Trommater

Joseph Trommater is the new leader at S.P.A.R.K.S., Students Participating in Academics and Recreation for Knowledge and Success, a program of the Clare-Gladwin Regional Educational Service District. He's been involved with the program for years and watched it significantly increase graduation rates and connect children and their families to opportunities for learning and personal enrichment.

Susan Heartwell

Economic conditions should never deny a child the chance to succeed – at least that’s what Susan Heartwell of the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation believes. And when she shares the good work of the foundation in getting public school children instruments, calculators or library books, people want to help.

Richard A. Loewenstein

Rick Loewenstein, CEO of JARC, an Oakland County agency that provides residential and support services to people with developmental disabilities and their families, hopes to someday see the social service sector valued as much as other sectors for its provision of jobs, fiscal savvy, and ability to engage the community. 

Brother Jerry Smith

As executive director of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen on Detroit’s near-eastside, Brother Jerry Smith sees his role as helping people grow and develop. That belief extends from the youngest children in after-school programs to agency staff, some of whom first came to the soup kitchen for services.

Dick Bulkowski

Dick Bulkowski directs Steepletown Neighborhood Services in Grand Rapids with a great interest in the lives of the young clients served through GED and career programs. But unlike many nonprofit executives, Bulkowski brings real-life experience to the table having gone through a family crisis that he candidly shares with others to illustrate his vigorous resolve.

Amanda Uhle

Amanda Uhle, executive director of 826michigan, an Ann Arbor nonprofit that aims to teach kids the joy of writing, has conquered early start-up pains and later financial struggles, but most recently faces a significant, albeit flattering, challenge: local demand for services exceeds 826michigan’s capacity. 

Richard Clanton

Richard V. Clanton, CEO of United Methodist Community House, wants all children to succeed, regardless of their life circumstances. And, he’s proud of how his agency has improved the lives of at-risk Grand Rapids children through nationally accredited child development and after-school centers, summer day camp, and a literacy initiative.

Erin Melcher

Erin Melcher places a strong value on financing quality education – an investment that she says will pay off now and later. As the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center‘s principal and executive director, she knows firsthand the importance of fostering student achievement at her K-5 learning institution.

Michael Earl

Every child, and every family, deserves a chance to achieve. It’s that fundamental belief that drives everyone at Oakland Family Services, up to and including CEO Michael Earl. He’s inspired by seeing children who face difficult circumstances believe in their ability to achieve whatever they set out to do. 

Chris Shea

Cherry Street Health Services has a CEO with a strong desire to educate people who live in poverty. Chris Shea believes in equity – that every child of every economic level should have the same opportunities to learn and that they should be offered improved access to health care as they grow into healthy, successful adults.

Mike Garfield

There’s more than one way to help save a planet, and Mike Garfield, director of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, has had a hand in most of them. In his 20-year career, he has seen once-radical ideas such as recycling become commonplace and has persuaded communities to consider land use in new ways. Today, Garfield and his Ecology Center team continue their work to preserve our ecosystem for future generations.

Deborah Buchholtz

With a passion for business and organizational operations, Deb Buchholtz brings effectiveness, efficiency, and results to Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring. Buchholtz puts her unique approach to work improving the operations of the mentoring organization that serves five counties in southwest Michigan.

Carrie Wilson

Carrie Wilson, Council Director for Girls on the Run of Calhoun County, believes one person with one voice can influence the lives of young girls. Wilson says planting the seeds of confidence in vulnerable children does not always yield instant gratification but requires time and dedication to pay off.

Denise Fase

Denise Fase recognizes that we often instinctively look at the weaknesses in others. As Executive Director of the Grand Rapids Initiative for Leaders, Fase makes it her job to fight that impulse and view troubled urban teens as prospective leaders with unique gifts and skills to offer their community. 

Don Hoaglin

Don Hoaglin’s job description calls for more than the average school principal. Community engagement is key to his everyday activities at Prairieview Elementary School, a school that stemmed from the Developing a Community School Project. Through hard work and a proactive approach, he has the involvement of Battle Creek business leaders, service agencies, clergy members and more.

Ruth Lumpkins

Ruth A. Lumpkins, executive director of Jubilee Jobs, has a strong desire to help the underserved and a vision to inspire all of her students not only to have dreams, but to realize them and be serious about their education and their future.

Melanie Knoll

Melanie Knoll is co-executive director with Cara Graninger of Living Arts, an arts and community development group serving the southwest Detroit community with arts-infused education and dance programs. She grew up in the neighborhood she now serves and finds it very rewarding to provide opportunities to children just like herself. 

Randy Osmun

Randy Osmun, executive director of The Source in Grand Rapids, is a bridge builder. His organization brings together people in need of jobs with employers in need of services. The results: more stable families and satisfied employers. 

Cindy Ruble

As executive director of the Educators’ Task Force, former Lakeview superintendent Cindy Ruble connects and represents all of Battle Creek’s education leadership, including those at private schools, charters and colleges. The ETF manages programs designed to benefit and support children in their education – from birth through adulthood. 

Angela Reyes

As executive director of Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, Angela Reyes believes that failing schools and a lack of jobs create an environment ripe for youth to fall into crime or drugs – or simply lose hope. DHDC is changing the outlook for southwest Detroit youth and parents, and community members are becoming their own agents of change. 

Joseph Ferguson

Joseph Ferguson came to the world of federally qualified health centers from a career in the for-profit hospital field. His philosophy has always been that a great deal of leadership is about serving, and his role at Advantage Health Centers allows him to do that in a very efficient way. 

Michael Poma

As executive director of the Baraga Houghton Keweenaw Child Development Board, Michael Poma works to see that children keep up with their peers in school. However, what keeps him awake at night is wishing he could make his services accessible and affordable to more people, especially needy children.

Kari Walker

A vision for better outcomes for at-risk children drives Kari Walker, The Guidance Center’s president and CEO. His Downriver agency is both a catalyst for community change and a haven for local children and families. 

Kate Flores

Kate Flores, executive director of Voces, believes that building relationships can transform the Battle Creek community better than simply providing services. Flores works with limited English proficient families to improve their health and quality of life through interpreter services, language classes, playgroups, immigration assistance, and women and youth groups.

Darel Ross II

Darel Ross II became Co-Executive Director of LINC in 2008, after serving as the board treasurer for LINC for six years. Ross leads LINC’s efforts to revitalize neighborhoods by engaging residents, developing business and housing opportunities, and securing over $42 million in funding in the same neighborhood in which he grew up. 

Gilda Z. Jacobs

Gilda Jacobs once worked as a Michigan state legislator. In her current position as president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, she believes she’ll make more of an impact on the lives of vulnerable children and families. 

W. DeWayne Wells

DeWayne Wells, president of Gleaners Community Food Bank, not only measures progress by number of meals distributed to hungry people, but also by how much the community is engaged and working from a common front. Under his leadership, Gleaners projects to distribute 45 million pounds of food in 2012.  

Lisa Oliver-King

Lisa Oliver-King came to Grand Rapid’s Our Kitchen Table (OKT) with no gardening background, yet she was leading an agency that taught people to grow their own food. Today, she’s an avid gardener who dreams of expanding OKT’s gardening, farm market and outreach projects so that no one is turned away.

Dennis West

Dennis West and his staff at Northern Initiatives help businesses obtain the capital they need to start and expand their operations. This, in turn, helps to create jobs and wealth, which ultimately strengthens local families living in rural northern Michigan.

Martha Thawnghmung

Martha Thawnghmung connects to the Burmese refugees in Battle Creek not simply as clients, but as her brothers and sisters. Through the Burmese American Initiative she helps Burmese adults and children overcome language and cultural barriers and navigate government and agency systems to access resources for their health and education. 

Rebekah Fennell

Rebekah Fennell serves as the executive director of First Steps Kent, a public/private partnership working to improve the lives of children and prepare them for Kindergarten. Fennell brings a collaborative spirit to community work, with an eye on strengthening early childhood services for all families.  

Carl Kelly

As executive director of the Grand Rapids Youth Boxing Foundation, Carl Kelly uses boxing to teach leadership and life principles to underprivileged kids. A retired schoolteacher, Kelly now spends his time directing the MLK Boxing and Mentoring Program, influencing the lives of many Grand Rapids young people. 

Amber Arellano

Amber Arellano sees Michigan's school challenges and socioeconomic challenges for what they are: challenges – but not our destiny. As the executive director of Education Trust-Midwest, she’s bound and determined to reform the K-12 education system to transform the Great Lakes State into the Great Education State. 

Miranda Sue Hartmann

As the artistic director of All-of-Us Express Children’s Theatre in Lansing, Miranda Sue Hartmann shines a light on the talents of children, creating a safe, nurturing environment where children discover the pleasure and rewards of success. 
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