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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.
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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.

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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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