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Erin Melcher


Rediscovering School & Community Project

409 Lafayette SE
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503
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.
Michigan Nightlight: What are you most proud of?
Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center Principal and Executive Director Erin Melcher: I am most proud of the sense of community in our school.  Each day, our students, our staff, and our parents work together to provide a safe, nurturing and stimulating environment in which to learn. They each really believe in what we are accomplishing, and they all share the vision that moves us forward. 
If we can clearly and articulately communicate the value of this investment over the long term, money spent on a child's education will actually save money for society when our children become adults.

What does being a leader mean to you?
Being a leader means you are always working, learning, and trying to be better. The responsibility to lead an organization is multi-faceted and presents new challenges each day. The reward is being able to witness the accomplishments of the people with whom you work with and learn from. 
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
Continue to invest in education. If individuals are asked, "is education important?" or "do you value education?" the answer should be "yes," and foundations and philanthropic organizations have certainly demonstrated this investment. However, when we continually see school millages voted down, it appears that, as individuals, we are not practicing what we preach. It is discouraging. 
If we can clearly and articulately communicate the value of this investment over the long term, money spent on a child's education will actually save money for society when our children become adults.  
How do you know you’re making progress?
We have grown by about 10 percent for each of the past two years. In June of 2010, there were 196 students enrolled. Our count last year was 220, and our enrollment for the 2012-2013 academic year is 235 students.
My dream is that every child receives the love, support and encouragement to take their education as far as they wish.
Our student achievement is steadily increasing, too. The fall 2011 MEAP scores shows our students outperforming the proficiency averages for the state, county and city in all grade levels and all content areas. We also received a grade of "A" on our state report card last year for the first time in our school’s history.
Also, we have received significant support and interest from foundations and the philanthropic community. We got $350,000 for capital improvements and expansion from the Steelcase Foundation, $200,000 for research and program enrichment from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, $75,000 for operations and programming from the Sebastian Foundation, and $175,000 for capital improvements and expansion from the Frey Foundation.
What is your dream for kids?
My dream is that every child receives the love, support and encouragement to take their education as far as they wish. This can be accomplished by the realization of my earlier response that all organizations work together, and that as individuals we act upon what we know is right, whether it’s voting, campaigning, mentoring, immersing oneself in a school, by spending time with a child, or by helping a parent in need. My dream for kids cannot be obtained simply by furnishing dollars to a cause, but by actively engaging in the process and understanding the labor and love involved in teaching, and the labor and desire involved in learning.  
Neither is easy work, but the return on investment is significant. 
What originally drew you to your current profession?
My third grade teacher, Mrs. Sally Sportsman. She introduced me to literature – “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” [by C.S. Lewis] and made me a reader. That is the moment that I began to love school and realized I wanted to do the same for other children someday.
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Program Profile


  • The Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center
    The mission of the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center is to continuously expand the potential of children, the experiences of educators and the involvement of parents within the diverse community of Grand Rapids, Michigan.


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