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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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.
47 Articles | Page: | Show All
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Bright Ideas


Can systemic racism impact infant mortality?

Even when controlling for poverty, education level, and tobacco use of a mother, maternal and infant health outcomes are far worse for minority populations than European-American women. What's causing the continued disparities? And what can West Michigan do to ensure all babies born here have the best chance of reaching their potential? Zinta Aistars reports on Strong Beginnings, one local program working to give all families a fair start.

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Company Supports 4th Grade Field Trips to Lake Michigan

Parents working more than one job or odd hours, a lack of funds, and no transportation often prevent kids from experiencing one of Michigan’s incredible natural resources. For the majority of west side Grand Rapids elementary school kids, Lake Michigan is sadly out of reach. OST has teamed up with Grand Rapids Public Schools to give fourth-graders at west side schools the opportunity to experience the big lake firsthand.


Youth Decide Where Grant Dollars are Spent

For Grand Rapids students who serve as trustees-in-training on the GRCF Youth Grant Committee, giving back to the community goes hand in hand with empowering students to succeed. 
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