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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.

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.  

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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."

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.  

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.  

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 
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