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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.  

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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. 
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