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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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 
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