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Infancy to Innovation

Infancy to Innovation is a framework within The Power of We crossing community sectors to boost developmental results for children and young adults, especially those of color from low-income neighborhoods. Using an atypical approach to solving child (birth to 25 years) development problems, Infancy to Innovation operates with the belief that having a healthy, successful life begins in the womb.

Verona Early Grade Reading Achievement Program

The Verona Early Grade Reading Achievement Program is striving for 80 percent of its K-2 students at Verona Elementary School in Battle Creek to read at or above grade level. Coaching for teachers, leveled book sets in the classroom, a summer reading component, and trained community volunteers that come in weekly to tutor are all part of the mix to help children excel in reading. 

Music Makers

Music Makers is a program for at-risk youth to learn guitar, piano or chorus in weekly group classes. The material covered is largely based on input and feedback from the students in order to recognize various cultural backgrounds and to develop a sense of trust and investment. 


Water Street Glassworks is casting a blazing fire under Benton Harbor youth. Nearly three dozen teens attend FIRED UP! afterschool glass class where they design holiday ornaments, glasswork items, and other “beyond-their-years” works. The program’s curriculum was conceived to boost youthful spirits and reinforce confidence.


Ann Arbor’s REACH (Responsibility, Education, Achievement, Community, and Hope) program engages low-income, K-5 students in tutoring and activities to develop social skills and educational excellence. With the help of nearly 200 volunteers, the afterschool program is designed to be both rewarding and fun to keep kids and families coming back. 

Youth Initiative Project

Neighborhood Service Organization’s Youth Initiatives Project engages at-risk youth in creating their own campaigns around causes they believe in. This reinforces leadership skills and teaches young people to advocate for themselves around the policies that affect their lives. In the process, they give kids in some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in Detroit a sense of ownership over their futures.

Lift Up Through Literacy

Lift Up Through Literacy is a rapidly growing Kalamazoo Public Schools program that teaches hands-on literacy skills to parents and children that they can use at home on an everyday basis. The eight-week sessions are divided into classes for birth through two years, two through pre-school, and kindergarten through eighth grade. The program targets at-risk families, but any interested parent is welcome.

Sojourner Truth Girls Academy

Sojourner Truth Girls Academy, sponsored by the Urban League of Battle Creek, offers girls experiences in math and science and exposure to female role models in the fields of engineering and computer technology. The program sparks interest in science and math topics through enriching activities like creating balloon rocket launchers, making flavored lip gloss, and designing and building simple airplanes. 

Reading Works

Statistics show that functional illiteracy among southeast Michigan adults is significant, from 13 to 15 percent in Oakland and Macomb counties to 36 percent in Wayne County. Reading Works partners with other nonprofits to help adults reach a minimum ninth-grade level of literacy, thus allowing them to improve their economic status, participate equally in community growth, and improve literacy skills for children within the home.  

Youth Voice

YOUTH VOICE, a project of the Harriet Tubman Center, is a network for young people to make community change. The current YOUTH VOICE statewide campaign is to reduce out-of-school suspensions by advocating for the zero tolerance policy to be modified and for more school resources so students have additional support as an alternative to suspensions. It’s all about youth creating change, so the 16-year old president of YOUTH VOICE has joined our dialogue. 

Kids Helping Kids

Kids Helping Kids gives young people the opportunity to help others by packing food at Gleaners Community Food Bank that will be distributed to other children and youth in southeast Michigan. It introduces the idea of community service in a fun, rewarding way and has both hunger education and nutrition education components too. 

Food Warriors

An important aspect of Food Warriors, a program of Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, is to de-stigmatize the relationship between African Americans and agriculture, which is often viewed through a lens of oppression. As the program teaches young people about healthy food and gardening, it’s also helping to reframe agriculture as a tool of self-determination. 

Afterschool Art & Design Classes

CultureWorks’ way-cool afterschool art and design classes are targeted toward underserved middle and high school youth from the Holland and Ottawa school districts. The 12-week courses offer students the chance to sculpt, create ceramics, design amusement parks, or work with digital photography, and kids get a lift to and from the program. 

Education Trust - Midwest

Small but mighty, Education Trust - Midwest, headquartered in Royal Oak, is pushing to close the achievement gap and raise learning levels for all Michigan students. With a focus on what’s best for students, the organization is making headway in reforming teacher policies that will boost educator effectiveness.

School Report Card

Excellent Schools Detroit’s School Report Card provides parents of Detroit children with an easy-to-understand annual evaluation that looks at hard numbers such as test scores, as well as softer targets such as how nurturing, creative, and safe a school is for students. 

ANet Michigan

The Achievement Network is a nonprofit organization formed in 2005 that addresses two key needs expressed by educators: more support for developing instructional plans aligned to standards and a better understanding of why students struggle with specific material. ANet recently formed a Michigan Network, comprised of 15 Detroit schools, to provide coaching and tools to help educators overcome these challenges. 

Hoophouses for Health

Bringing together low-income community members with farmers, Hoophouses for Health is about nutrition, education, opportunity, and accessibility to fresh, Michigan-grown produce. Through this program, farmers get loans to build hoophouses that allow them to extend their growing season; low-income families can then purchase the food grown through a voucher system.

Youth Service Corps

Allen Neighborhood Center’s Youth Service Corps is a job and life skills training program engaging 20-30 youth, ages 11-17, with healthy food availability projects in neighborhoods on the eastside of Lansing. Youth build and install garden boxes for neighbors, plant and maintain a community garden, and make and sell healthy snacks at a local park. 

Detroit Food Academy

Detroit Food Academy teaches leadership skills by supporting Detroit high schools in building their own community-focused food business. Using experiential learning, Detroit kids are driven to critically think, consciously consume, and actively promote community change as they wear the shoes of food entrepreneurs who have the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit at heart. 

Community Literacy Initiative

For over two decades, the Literacy Center of West Michigan has been dedicated into improving reading skills and helping those learning English as a second language. Their work positively impacts schools, families and the community by expanding opportunities and increasing the quality of life by those they serve. 

Cook Library Center

Cook Library Center in Grand Rapids is a safe haven for K-7 students and their families to explore the joys of reading. With a collection of books in English and Spanish, laptops for student and adult use, homework help, and many other programs and outings, the center wants to engage the entire family and see student growth in both academics and leadership. 

Shelter & TIL Program

The Alternatives For Girls' Shelter & Transition to Independent Living Program goes far beyond a meal and a roof for homeless girls and young women in metro Detroit. In a caring and nurturing setting, the program offers counseling and educational services to help reunite girls with family or to ready them for self-reliance. 

Starfish Family Services Crisis Shelter

Starfish Family Services Crisis Shelter in Inkster helps to keep kids, ages 10 to 17, off the streets. Working with runaway, homeless, and throwaway youth and youth in immediate crisis – and their families – shelter staff try to reunite youth with their families when possible. Within a safe, stable, and structured environment, youth learn life skills, receive counseling, and connect with other community resources. The shelter is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Runaway and Homeless Youth Regional Alliance

The Runaway and Homeless Youth Regional Alliance is dedicated to creating a better system of care for disconnected youth in southeast Michigan. Made up of four agencies -- Alternative for Girls, Common Ground, Ruth Ellis Center, and Starfish Family Services -- the alliance wants to share data, improve outcomes for homeless youth, and increase public awareness about youth homelessness and the challenges faced by disconnected youth. 

Maternal Infant & Child Health Program

The Family Health Center of Battle Creek’s new Maternal Infant & Child Health Program aims to lessen infant mortality rates, enhance pregnancy experiences, and address childhood health issues in Calhoun County. The program is serious about giving voice to women about what they want and need to improve health outcomes for themselves, their babies, and their growing children.

Air Filter and Air Conditioner Intervention Study

Preventative health measures around asthma and other illnesses can’t happen without solid research into what works and what doesn’t. The Air Filter and Air Conditioner Intervention Study in Detroit is searching for ways to improve children’s asthma experiences and respiratory health by keeping indoor air cleaner. This study is a project of Community Action Against Asthma and Detroit Community Academic Urban Research Center, a community-based research partnership conducting research and interventions to promote health equity in the city.

Building Bridges

Building Bridges offers meaningful training and jobs for Grand Rapids youth who, as employees of the program, maintain vacant and foreclosed properties and provide top-notch, affordable landscaping and construction services to community members. Empowering youth and reducing blight, Building Bridges is a partnership between Bethany Christian Services and Urban Family Ministries. 

Family Support Partners

Family Support Partners is an Advocacy for Kids’ initiative developed to empower Kalamazoo County families who are raising children facing mood, behavioral, or emotional issues. The program’s participants form solid bonds with their unique peer mentors, because every Family Support Partner has a child with the same issues.  

Project CHILL

Normally, kids get mental health treatment after diagnosis, intervention after an illness becomes evident. At the Family Outreach Center in Grand Rapids a prevention program called Project CHILL is for kids who don’t have mental health issues. But their parents do, and that puts them at risk for developing illnesses later in life. The weekly after-school CHILL sessions are designed to educate kids on mental illness and teach them skills to cope with the issues surrounding it.

Honoring Our Youth (HOY)

Honoring Our Youth (HOY) is a program of Steepletown Neighborhood Services that helps out-of-school Grand Rapids youth, ages 14-21, conquer employment and education obstacles. Often labeled as “dropouts” or “nobodies” by others, the youth are provided GED, employment, and mentoring services at HOY to get back on track and restore their belief in their own potential.

Starr Suspension Center

Calhoun County children who have been suspended or expelled from school have the potential to move forward emotionally and academically at the Suspension Center of Starr Commonwealth Battle Creek. The center promotes academics, positive behavioral change, and personal enrichment for students -- and is helping kids successfully integrate back into school when they return. 

Kalamazoo Kids in Tune

Kids in Tune is an after-school orchestra immersion program held at Kalamazoo’s Woods Lake Elementary School for first through fifth graders who are struggling in school. While learning to play musical instruments is the primary focus, students also receive academic help. Kids in Tune is a dynamic collaboration of Kalamazoo Public Schools, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, and Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo.

High School Accelerator

Michigan Future, Inc.’s High School Accelerator plans to open 35 open enrollment, high-performing high schools in Detroit and nearby suburbs by 2017. It hopes for a trickle up affect: 85 percent of students graduate high school, 85 percent of high school graduates attend college, and 85 percent of college students earn a college degree. 

Mt. Elliot Makerspace

The Mt. Elliott Makerspace in Detroit is a community resource for children, teens and adults to learn about anything from computers to electronics to building bikes. The idea is that people will actively educate themselves and each other about how to accomplish their projects and develop skills to improve their lives. 

Family Reading and Science Program

Each year, the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History brings a unique collection of children’s workshops to libraries in southeast Michigan with its Family Reading and Science Program. Content changes from year to year; this year, in fun, kid-friendly settings, children learned to prepare, enjoy and understand foods from around the globe; to appreciate the likenesses and differences between races; and to recognize the inspirations that drive the universal language of music.

Baldwin Family Soup Kitchen

A welcome, dependable place for a hot meal in Pontiac, the Baldwin Family Soup Kitchen never turns away anyone seeking a meal. Volunteers and those needing meals connect, and both are satiated in more ways than one. 

Sack Suppers

Kids' Food Basket is devoted to alleviating childhood hunger in greater Grand Rapids, and now in Muskegon. Its Sack Suppers program, where take-home meals are distributed in classrooms to ensure that each child has a nutritious evening meal, reaches low-income students in 35 schools. 

Hope Center in Macomb

Supported by churches from across Macomb County and serving residents of Macomb County, Hope Center is a client choice food pantry and a one-stop shop of 17 human service programs. Client choice pantries allow patrons to select food items their families want and need, much like grocery store, reducing waste and making the process of acquiring emergency food a more dignified experience. 

Girls' Tutoring Program

From its hub in southwest Detroit, the Girls' Tutoring Program at Mercy Education Project (MEP) helps girls learn basic academic skills they may have missed in school through one on one tutoring. Once those fundamentals are mastered, student performance improves – and many tutoring program grads go on to college. 

Prosperity Coalition

Michigan League’s new Prosperity Coalition will serve as a catalyst and convener, bringing together leaders to influence policies that promote greater prosperity for all people in Michigan – including children. The coalition will hone messages and coordinate advocacy, working toward making economic security and racial equity a reality in our state.

Ready for School

Ready for School is a Holland, Zealand and Hamilton community initiative insuring that all children come to kindergarten prepared to succeed.

Teen Open Studio

REACH Studio Arts Center has a number of arts programs for Lansing children. At its free Teen Open Studio, young adults cultivate an appreciation for developing partnerships and building community through creative art expression. 

Design Thinking

Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies, a middle and high school, wants to equip young people with skills to become critical thinkers and innovators and find success in college and careers. Students use Design Thinking, a structured way of innovating that involves identifying roles, techniques, environments, and tools to address problems using human-centered design, learning by doing, and collaboration. When integrated with core curriculum, Design Thinking makes creativity and innovation an integral part of learning at this Detroit public school academy. 

School Residency Program

The School Residency Program of InsideOut Literary Arts Project puts practicing, professional writers in 30 Detroit schools to work with students on creative writing. At the end of the year-long residencies, students are hooked on the power and pleasure of writing and are rewarded by becoming published authors themselves. 

Press Club

Youth in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood of Grand Rapids are digging the Press Club, a program of the Creative Youth Center and Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities. Here, young reporters go on field trips, conduct interviews, and even get published. The program encourages youth to find, develop, and share their voices and improve writing skills as they report on their experiences at events and cultural activities in west Michigan. 

Southwest Urban Arts Mural Project

Youth in southwest Detroit are spending the summer beautifying their community, earning money, and learning about creative careers as part of Urban Neighborhood Initiatives’ Southwest Urban Arts Mural Project. Young people design murals, decide on locations, manage projects, and lead mural painting teams.

ACT I: Arts Continuum Training

In Living Arts’ Act I drama program for pre-K through third grade students in Detroit, professional teaching artists provide weekly classroom experiences based on teachers’ language arts objectives. In dramatizing and using techniques such as tableau and interviewing, students build their language comprehension. Each session also asks students to comment and reflect on the stories from a “text to self” perspective to promote character and citizenship development.

Visual Arts Council

In keeping with Ann Arbor Neutral Zone’s mission of youth directed programming and leadership, its Visual Arts Council is an advisory board of students, open to teens of any background who want to participate in directing the organization’s arts-related activities. Teens are responsible for planning and organizing events, bringing in artists from the community, and innovating new programming. 

BEE Green: Living Science School Program

Bringing new programming into Detroit schools can be tough on teachers, but the BEE Green: Living Science School Program makes it easy. It aligns with state standards, and can be worked right into lesson plans. Even better, after BEE Green students learn about science and the three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), they end up as environmental change agents in their own households and communities. 

STEM Initiative

The STEM Initiative is one of three primary priority areas at the Detroit Public Schools Foundation. The foundation focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), recognizing the importance of high-tech jobs and wanting to ensure that DPS students gain the knowledge and skills during their K-12 education to go on to advanced studies or to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.

KidsFirst Emergency Shelter

As the first stop for every Kent County child that is removed from the home because of abuse or neglect, KidsFirst Emergency Shelter in Grand Rapids knows how to meet the needs of traumatized kids. While children may be angry, sad or anxious, KidsFirst staff is prepared to handle difficult times with the children who will eventually be placed in a more permanent setting, like a foster home or independent living program.

Michigan Good Food

Healthy food means good nourishment, especially “green” cuisine that comes from environmentally sustainable sources. Fair food means nutritious food that everyone can afford. That’s where Michigan Good Food comes in. Centered around the Michigan Good Food Charter, Michigan Good Food is a policy initiative that fosters policy changes to promote healthy, affordable food for all ages, especially at-risk youth.

Life Skills Experience

The First Tee of Battle Creek’s Life Skills Experience is a youth leadership program that teaches young people core values and life skills, like respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, and integrity. The sessions, running from May to September, use the game of golf and its inherent values as a way to teach youth perseverance and build self-confidence. 

Follow Through

Follow Through is an extension of The Midnight Golf Program’s 30-week course in college readiness, empowerment and life skills. Conducted at Marygrove College in Detroit, its mentors support families to ensure that students thrive in college and don’t abandon their education in the face of financial challenges, cultural issues or academic concerns. 

Kids Run the Nation Saginaw

In 1986, Road Runners Club of America developed the Kids Run the Nation program to educate young children on the importance of physical activity and good nutrition. Today, elementary schools and other organizations all over the nation use the free, 8-10 week curriculum in their youth running clubs. Thanks to one concerned mother and a strong supportive staff, Saginaw’s Handley Elementary School is one of them. 

Speaking Out Loud (SOuL)

Speaking Out Loud, otherwise known as SOuL, is a nonprofit youth enrichment program that encourages marginalized teens to tell their stories through spoken word art. Youth in the program are literally given a voice in the community by producing performance poetry pieces that engage and transform their audiences.

Youth Arts Program

WMCAT’s Teen Arts Program uses the arts to engage urban teens in making school and career connections. Embracing project-based learning, teen leadership, and civic engagement, the program inspires and moves teens to success in high school and post high school endeavors.

Parent Empowerment Program (PEP)

The nine-month Parent Empowerment Program (PEP) transforms parents’ outlooks and restocks their toolkit. Led by Bob Sornson, Ph.D., a national presenter and author on early childhood issues, the classes are held in Inkster at Starfish Family Services, where a warm staff, a hot breakfast and top-notch childcare create a great environment to learn. 

Vulnerable Youth Project

As the most vulnerable youth in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are struggling in school; lacking readiness for post-secondary academics; and living with environmental stress in a multitude of areas, the Vulnerable Youth Project is tackling their issues head on in effort to improve quality of life and stimulate better outcomes. 


SEEDS, an acronym for Seeking Ecology, Education and Design Solutions, takes a multi-faceted, holistic approach to improving ecological and educational systems in the Grand Traverse area. SEEDS improves and enriches the communities it serves through a diverse array of programming such as after-school cooking clubs, Great Lakes Bioneers, and a Youth Conservation Corps.

Art Road

Art Road Nonprofit provides art classes in Detroit Public Schools where there were none. And these aren’t just any art classes. Art Road’s instructors are Cranbrook Academy of Art graduates who bring high-quality teaching and techniques to Detroit elementary school students – enriching their school experience tremendously.  

R.E.M. (Rest. Educate. Motivate.) Sleep Education Program

Many school children do not get the sleep they need for proper learning, health, and overall behavior. The R.E.M. (Rest. Educate. Motivate.) Sleep Education Program fills the missing gap of sleep education, working with low-income and impoverished kids and families in southeast Michigan schools. R.E.M. teaches good sleep sense and provides aids to create a proper sleep environment, such as sleeping bags, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. 

Women & Children's Shelter

The Women & Children's Shelter at Mel Trotter Ministries in Grand Rapids offers warm meals, beds to sleep in, children's activities, and inviting hugs and smiles to homeless women and their children. Guests can stay at the shelter for up to 60 days and are offered an array of services to help get them back on their feet.

Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative

The Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative is a group of Grand Rapids organizations that are aspiring toward a community where all children, regardless of the neighborhood where they live, are able to grow and learn, and reach their potential as adults.

Neighborhoods Working in Partnership: Youth Mobilizing for Policy Change

Neighborhoods Working in Partnership: Youth Mobilizing for Policy Change builds capacity of Detroit youth to engage in policy change so that they can have their voices heard. Hands-on workshops cover the steps and skills for policy advocacy and then youth use the tools to bring about change in issues they care about. The youth advocacy training is an effort of the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center.

Youth Public Engagement Internship Program

The Youth Public Engagement Internship Program offers Battle Creek high school students an opportunity to train and prepare for their future. The elite few selected are afforded the rare chance to not only job shadow professionals in the line of work they hope to pursue after they finish school, but participate in meaningful experiences that bring fresh perspectives to their workplaces. 

School Success Partnership

Any attempt to help young people succeed in life is best accomplished when parents, teachers, and community agencies collaborate. The School Success Partnership in northeast Michigan has proven that collaboration really works, as measured by better grades, attendance, and behavior.

Youth Services Work Group

The Youth Services Work Group looks at social services that are available for Calhoun County youth, from birth to adulthood, and identifies gaps in service delivery. Made up of professionals from the juvenile justice system, the education system, the Department of Human Services, corporate and philanthropic organizations, and others, the group tries to identify and remove potential barriers for vulnerable youth to access needed services. 

The Little Engineer That Could

The Little Engineer that Could is an apt name for DAPCEP’s K-3 supplemental education offering. The inventive program brings parents, teachers, and kids together while introducing concepts like gears, water, and electricity.  For youngsters, it nurtures an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. For adults, the program helps foster parental engagement and prepares them for supporting young learners at home.

Supporting Talented Athletes to Succeed (S.T.A.T.S.)

Supporting Talented Athletes to Succeed (S.T.A.T.S.) is a mentoring program of Battle Creek’s New Level Sports for children from first to sixth grade. It pairs college athletes to form relationships with children as they enjoy many different sports. 

Playworks Detroit

Playworks is a national in-school program being implemented in Detroit that places a full-time “coach” in elementary schools to teach positive, safe, and meaningful play. The focus is on recess, with an emphasis on physical activity and improving socialization skills; the program also teaches conflict resolution strategy and leadership development, and Playworks coaches lead classroom games that promote team-building, inclusion, and respect.


Only 23 high schools in Michigan were selected to pilot the think.respect. campaign, which provides federal funds for programs in academic success, anti-bullying, and healthy lifestyles. Benton Harbor High School is one of them. This southwest Michigan school, with a history of tough challenges, is hoping to break down learning barriers for students and staff through initiatives that directly affect students’ physical, emotional, and social well-being. 

Place-Based Stewardship Education Initiative

Eco-justice education – a blend of environmental education and social justice – is at the heart of the Place-based Stewardship Education Initiative of the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition. Based out of Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, the program works closely with teachers to create and implement inspiring curriculum that helps children grow into good environmental stewards. 

Our LAND (Learn Admire Nurture Dream)

The Greening of Detroit’s Our LAND (Learn Admire Nurture Dream) program reaches more than 250 underserved fifth- and sixth-grade Detroit students. Through yearlong, multi-session in-school classroom visits, stewardship projects, and field trips to Detroit’s Rouge Park, Our LAND helps students create lasting bonds with natural areas throughout the city. 

Support Our Leaders (SOL) Program

The Hispanic Center of Western Michigan’s Supporting Our Leaders (SOL) Program strives to close the achievement gap for Hispanic youth by educating parents, providing gang intervention, preventing students from dropping out of school, and by encouraging youth to take a leadership role in the program and in their community. 


FATE is a series of monthly workshops in which students of Detroit’s Jalen Rose Leadership Academy travel to Ann Arbor to be immersed in a collegiate environment and to be exposed to new experiences. Students who successfully complete the four-year program will be given college scholarships.

Ele's Place

Ele’s Place has been a pinnacle in the Lansing community for more than 20 years, guiding children through the troubled waters known as grief. Now, its unique programs are being planted throughout the state as they strive to provide every grieving child in Michigan access to compassionate support. 

Open Arms

Open Arms offers grief support in a group setting to children ages 3-17 who have suffered the loss of a family member due to accident, illness, suicide or homicide. Working with schools, churches and other community organizations, the program also aims to educate the public on the long-term impact of grief and trauma.

Stewards of Children

Childhood sexual abuse is heartbreakingly common. Fortunately, the Stewards of Children Program provides Allegan County adults an opportunity to learn about its indicators. Bringing an interactive training into schools, churches, and workplaces, Stewards of Children educates the public about the statistics, tells the stories of survivors, and shares prevention and intervention information that adults need to take action.

UM School of Natural Resources and Environment

MOSES Safe Zone

MOSES (Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength) began in 1995 with their Safe Zone program, training neighborhood residents to work with police and each other to identify crime hot spots. Over time, it has become an organization that brings together city and suburban groups in our divided region to make change. 

Think Big

The Think Big Program of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit provides high-risk youth who have experienced the Juvenile Justice System with “Bigs” (volunteer mentors). The one-to-one program focuses on positive youth development and school success, though the mentors are the ones who are thoroughly inspired by the youth they mentor.

Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring

Five counties in southwest Michigan are served by Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring. These communities benefit from the tried and true system of matching disadvantaged youth with volunteers who act as their friends and mentors. Supportive role models lead to higher aspirations and educational success for children.

Nature for a Healthy Future

Nature for a Healthy Future - Connecting Children & Nature project is a year-round Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway preschool program. Utilizing greater Holland area neighborhood parks and green spaces, the program encourages good health by fostering outdoor nature activity.  

Explorer Programs

Near the border of Lapeer and Oakland counties, Seven Ponds Nature Center in Dryden offers a K-6 grade curriculum, with each grade focusing on specific ecological concepts. The Explorer Programs bring science to life on 486 magical acres of lakes, ponds, and woodlands, reinforcing school lessons while promoting greater knowledge, awareness, and appreciation of the natural world.

Aspiring Musicians Program

The MSU Community Music School provides music education and music therapy for people of all ages, abilities, and incomes in metro Detroit. The school’s youth programs teach discipline, leadership, creativity, self-reliance, and entrepreneurialism. As music and the arts disappear from the regular school day, the Community Music School works to preserve music education for Detroit kids.

Sphinx Overture Program

The Overture Program brings music lessons directly to schools in Detroit and Flint, reaching students who have traditionally lacked engagement with classical music. Not only does it show young people that classical music is performed and taught by people of similar background, but it provides a host of benefits in terms of discipline, focus, and learning.

Kalamazoo County Ready 4s

Privately-funded Kalamazoo County Ready 4s was designed to ensure every child have access to a high-quality early childhood education. It serves families of all income levels, on a sliding fee tuition scale, including the families who qualify for the Head Start or Great Start pre-kindergarten programs. Providers receive mentoring, training, and coaching to make sure they meet the high standards needed to be a Kalamazoo County Ready 4s provider.


SmartBites bridges the hunger gap that some children face at school. A program of Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan, SmartBites provides nutritious snacks to more than 18,000 elementary school students who arrive at school hungry or face midday hunger, helping them to focus and fully participate during school and in afterschool activities. 

Service & Leadership Camp

The LEAGUE Michigan’s yearly Service & Leadership Camp is a weekend bash designed by a committee of young people from all over the state. Students from eighth to 12th grade attend the camp to engage in service learning and philanthropy education, as well as interactive sessions designed to develop leadership skills.

Parent Resource Centers

Detroit Parent Network’s Parent Resource Centers are located within eight public schools to provide support for parents. The centers help parents access basic human services for their families and provide tools and tips to engage parents in their children’s academic success. 

With Malice Toward None

Even in metro Detroit, which boasts the largest population of Arabic-speaking people outside the Middle East, stereotypes of Arab-Americans remain entrenched. The Arab American National Museum’s program With Malice Toward None aims to break down those stereotypes and open dialogue between Arab-Americans and other groups.

Mizizi Maji Mentoring Program

The Mizizi Maji (which is Swahili for “Root Water”) Mentoring Program pairs Grand Rapids area youth with adult mentors who, alongside parents, help youth grow to well-rounded, well-traveled, and socially competent citizens. Youth learn and thrive through a variety of exclusive lessons and ventures – like travel – that they might not otherwise experience.

Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program

At the Downtown Boxing Gym, Carlo Sweeney (aka “Coach Khali”) uses boxing to teach discipline and structure to Detroit youth. This discipline is reinforced through mandatory tutoring sessions and community service, forming a holistic approach toward success in academics and life.

Consortium of Hispanic Agencies

Although just formalized in 2009, the Consortium of Hispanic Agencies has existed since the late 1970s to connect, strengthen, and amplify the voices of its constituents. CHA is working with renewed purpose to advance the Latino agenda in southwest Detroit.

Whole School Whole Child Dropout Prevention

Each year, City Year Detroit leverages the power of 100 young AmeriCorps volunteers to help struggling Detroit students stay in school. These mentors work to get vulnerable students on track for graduation, right from the classrooms, reducing a national problem on a local level by intervening before a child becomes a dropout statistic.

Kids’ After School Pack Program

Since 2006, the Kids’ After School Pack Program has worked to alleviate hunger among kids living in eight south central Michigan counties. Dedicated volunteers, collaborating organizations, and an organized staff make sure that vulnerable students eat each day they are away from school, thanks to this Food Bank of South Central Michigan food-for-the-weekend program. 

The Learning Center

For 22 years, young people with academic, behavioral, and relationship challenges have turned to The Learning Center, a Crossroads for Youth program in Oxford. Through therapies, mentoring, confidence-building, and academic exercises, most emerge from the day treatment program with futures that sparkle brighter than they (and their families) ever imagined possible. 

Second Stories Drop-In Center

The Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park serves young people living at the intersection of race, poverty and LGTBQ identification. Its drop-in center provides everything from showers and dinner to support groups to art classes for youth who often are homeless or have run away.

In-School Residency Program

Both beauty and impact are found in the simplicity of the In-School Residency Program at Ann Arbor’s 826michigan. Volunteers go into local schools, working one-on-one and in small groups with students on their writing skills. Students benefit, volunteers are inspired, and teachers receive needed classroom support.  

HYPE Teen Center

The key to attracting teens is giving them a sense of ownership over the programming provided for them. That’s the lesson behind the Detroit Public Library’s HYPE Teen Center, which draws teens with opportunities to develop their creativity in a sleek, modern space dedicated to their use. 

Teen Advisory Group

After school and on weekends, teens flock to the Michigan Avenue Branch of Ypsilanti District Library. Why? Because the library’s Teen Advisory Group (TAG) plans and implements programming and has created a cool space to study, write, learn, and socialize in a safe and happening environment. 

Michigan Breastfeeding Network

The Michigan Breastfeeding Network is a volunteer organization of health care professionals seeking to connect all of the various programs surrounding breastfeeding education and advocacy throughout Michigan, assisting women in finding programs in their area, and serving as a clearinghouse for breastfeeding information and support.

Lansing Spartans Youth Organization

Founded by retired boxer Kolmarge Harris, Lansing Spartans Youth Organization offers low-cost and no-cost programs to children ages 5-15. The program’s goals are to improve kids’ overall fitness, help with weight loss, and instill motivation and confidence that will aid them in all areas of life. 

Strong Beginnings

Strong Beginnings is a program providing health resources and services to disadvantaged women as they embark on motherhood, with the goal of lessening racial disparities in birth outcomes. One of the program’s focus areas is to educate and provide support to women who wish to breastfeed.

Young Social Entrepreneur Society

The Young Social Entrepreneur Society serves more than 200 K-12 youth from Detroit’s North End. Its unique blend of education, entrepreneurship, and employment skills training means that vulnerable kids who complete the program leave armed with real-life skills to carry them throughout life and into a prosperous, successful adulthood.

Detroit Food Policy Council

When Detroit City Council in 2009 adopted a Policy on Food Security that called for a hunger-free, food secure city; a sustainable food system that provided high quality food and jobs; and a food system that contributed to the long-term health of the environment – they also called for the formation of the Detroit Food Policy Council. Today, the council is a leader in food systems reform. 

Detroit Black Community Food Security Network

Founded in 2006, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network is a coalition working to bring greater food security to Detroit’s African American communities through education, awareness and action. One of their projects, D-Town Farms, is the largest urban farm in the city of Detroit.

Healthy Kids and Kidneys

Engaging middle schoolers in thinking about how to protect their long-term health can be a challenge. The National Kidney Foundation of Michigan’s Healthy Kids and Kidneys program effectively relates health lessons to students’ real lives and helps them set goals. 

Step-Beyond Program

Youth transitioning from foster care into adulthood need help, and that’s what they get from the Step-Beyond Program in Detroit. Participants -- ages 17 through 21 -- receive much-needed life skills and workforce training, counseling, education, and a safe place to call home.

Colors Restaurant

As people spend more money on meals prepared away from home, opportunities for decent-paying jobs in the restaurant industry increase - but trained workers are needed to take those opportunities. Colors Restaurant in Detroit, a program of the Restaurant Opportunity Center of Michigan, serves as both a hands-on training center and a full service, locally focused restaurant. 

Kalamazoo County Substance Abuse Task Force

A devoted assembly of community members -- influential political, educational, faith and law enforcement individuals; parents; and students included -- make up the Kalamazoo County Substance Abuse Task Force. The force aggressively addresses alcohol and substance abuse issues – especially among local youth.

The Next Urban Chef

The Next Urban Chef is a visionary new program that educates Detroit youth about food systems and sustainability, while simultaneously teaching hands-on cooking skills. The five-month program culminates in a culinary competition where students work in tandem with noted local chefs to prepare a meal with all locally sourced ingredients.

Detroit Youth Food Brigade

The Detroit Youth Food Brigade brings Detroit teens together with local businesses to sell their products at local farmers’ markets. Students of the program also serve as interns for the participating food businesses, gaining job skills and an understanding of where food comes from before hitting stores and markets. 

Double Up Food Bucks

Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks benefit Michigan’s low-income shoppers and local growers. SNAP participants use their Michigan Bridge Card to buy eligible food items at any participating Double Up Food Bucks farmers’ market and receive matching dollars to buy even more produce for their families. 

The Reconnecting Disconnected Youth Project

It takes tenacious hope to believe in students who have dropped out of standard school programs. Heidi Cate of Lighthouse Academy in Grand Rapids discusses her organization’s Reconnecting Disconnected Youth Project and her staff’s ferocious faith in their students. 

Michigan Immigrant Rights Center

Immigration is a hot button political issue, but the attorneys of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center look at their work not as a political statement, but as means to help people who are fighting against long odds to make a better life for themselves and their families. 

Regional Youth Justice Consortium

Bringing together youth from all across metro Detroit, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion’s Regional Youth Justice Consortium engages youth in meaningful work for change while building real, sustainable relationships with people they may otherwise never meet. 

Partners for a Racism-Free Community

Partners for a Racism-Free Community is a collaboration formed to abolish racism in greater Grand Rapids. Through a credentialing program for organizations and community-focused workshops, this group is helping to dispel judgmental attitudes and build a more tolerant, compassionate community to raise children.

Pay It Forward Initiative

The Pay It Forward Initiative takes an innovative approach to helping underserved populations find employment. It identifies opportunities with employer partners and then underwrites a 16-week internship for clients. Job training, business and finance classes, counseling, and help with overcoming any barriers to employment are part of the package.

Interfaith Hospitality Network

The Interfaith Hospitality Network is a program connecting homeless families with churches and synagogues around Grand Rapids, which provide them with food, shelter and family activities. One of the network’s main priorities is to keep family units intact during stressful and precarious times. 

Healthy U at the YMCA of Grand Rapids

Healthy U, a no-cost wellness and health education program for low-income children (K-12) in the Grand Rapids area, is part of the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids’ Healthy Living Hubs. More than 30 schools and community-based centers across greater Grand Rapids host the twice weekly, year-round Healthy U nutrition and fitness sessions.


The safety net provided by S.P.A.R.K.S. (Students Participating in Academics and Recreation for Knowledge and Success), part of the U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers project, has caught thousands of students in Clare and Gladwin counties, keeping them from failing or dropping out. Within a school-community framework, kids attend school, feel good about it, and participate with their families in fun, interesting and educational activities during and after school.

Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation

The Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation has made a mission of providing the tools necessary to help public school students reach the height of academic achievement. Community members have embraced the foundation’s work, putting their private dollars on the table for public education.

School Inclusion Program

JARC's School Inclusion Program helps students with disabilities attending Jewish Day schools in southeast Oakland County experience academic and social success. Social workers, classroom assistants, tutors, teacher consultants, behavior specialists, and occupational therapists team up so that Jewish children can learn in an environment that respects cultural values and traditions. 

Rosa Parks Children and Youth Program

The Rosa Parks Children and Youth Program of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit uses after-school tutoring, art therapy, a garden club, and access to an extensive lending library to stretch children’s minds, stimulate creativity, and offer alternatives to violence. 

Drop-in Teen and Youth Writing Workshops

At 826michigan’s Drop-in Teen and Youth Writing Workshops at Ypsilanti Public Libraries, children are allowed to explore writing on their own terms with the gentle guidance and heartfelt support of regular volunteers who share their passion for the written word with students. 

Fun in the Sun Summer Day Camp

Fun in the Sun Summer Day Camp is week-long annual program hosted by United Methodist Community House. It engages Grand Rapids children in a slew of activities from swimming to rock climbing and takes them on outings to museums, farmers markets and area parks. 

Rediscovering School & Community Project

The Rediscovering School & Community Project is a two-year evaluation designed to gather and report data to assess results from the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center’s use of the Reggio Emilia philosophy of early childhood education. Its findings will be publicized to share with other area learning institutions and facilitators.

Achieving Preschool Excellence (APEX)

At Oakland Family Services’ APEX Preschool Program, not only do Pontiac children have access to a high-quality preschool at low to no cost, they and their families enter a community of caring people who leverage the agency’s resources to ensure each family has what it needs to thrive.  

Maternal Infant Health Program

Cherry Street Health Services in Grand Rapids is one of many Michigan agencies that administers the Michigan Department of Community Health’s Maternal Infant Health Program, which promotes healthy pregnancies and healthy infant development for qualifying families. 

Healthy Food, Healthier Futures Project

Healthy Food, Healthier Futures is a Michigan-based program of the national coalition Healthcare Without Harm, which focuses on greening the health care sector. Healthy Food, Healthier Futures, a project of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, is primarily focused on food and its connection to the health of humans and environment and works to leverage the purchasing power of the health care sector to create a more sustainable food system. 

Girls on the Run of Calhoun County

Training for a 5k run provides the backdrop for the Girls on the Run of Calhoun County’s curriculum. Participants are taught much more than jogging skills. Lessons in independent thinking, problem solving skills, and how to make healthy decisions all foster self-confidence in the 3rd through 5th grade girls.

GRIL U Teen Leadership Program

The GRIL U Teen Leadership Program employs training and leadership work to guide its youth members into lives of community leadership. Program participants are taught to recognize and value their own influence and to use their powerful voice to fight for justice within their communities.

Developing a Community School

The Developing a Community School Project uses a neighborhood-based holistic approach to educate young people at Prairieview Elementary School. This Battle Creek project engages the entire community, including local faith, healthcare and business organizations, to both support and celebrate school and student successes. 

Yes for Youth

These aren’t your typical, rumdum summer jobs for teens. Yes for Youth is a Jubilee Jobs program that gives underserved 14- to 18-year old youth in Grand Rapids the opportunity for employment training, followed by a paid summer job in an area of interest, like journalism or social service work.

El Arte: Arts Infused Education

El Arte brings artists into the classrooms of at-risk students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade for arts-infused education. Artists use hands-on methods, which improve student performance in core subjects through the arts. They work closely with classroom teachers to pilot innovative curriculum that target unmet student needs. 


The SOURCE brings businesses, government agencies and nonprofits together to help the community. It works to make healthy and stable homes for employees by providing access to resources and assistance. The SOURCE also provides training and opportunities, with the end goal of sustainable employment and self-sufficiency.

Early Childhood Connections

In 2008, the residents of Calhoun County were surveyed about their hopes and dreams for their children. The result of that survey was the creation of Early Childhood Connections, giving support to children from birth to age four with welcome baby baskets, family coaches, toddler play groups and much more.

Madres Unidas (MomU)

Since 2012, Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation’s Madres Unidas program, MomU, has been helping Hispanic mothers in southwest Detroit deal with the challenges of parenting and the challenges of life. Using input from mothers to design a meaningful curriculum, the program addresses local mothers’ most pressing issues, including parenting teens. 

Conner Creek Mother Nurture Project

The mission of Advantage Health Centers is to improve the health status of the individuals and the communities we serve by providing access to high quality, respectful, and efficient health care services. Advantage Health Centers will also be a catalyst for access to health care and other resources for those who would otherwise go unserved.

New Start Preservation Program

The goal of any social service agency is to keep families together. No one wins when children have to be removed from their homes by the court system. The Baraga Houghton Keweenaw New Start Preservation program has a solid record of not only keeping children in their homes, but affecting change in the parents of those children, a better outcome for all involved.

The River Rouge Promise Neighborhood

The River Rouge Promise Neighborhood initiative is making sure everyone is heard. With a goal to have children in the River Rouge community enter kindergarten ready to learn, parents, childcare providers, professionals, teachers, schools and the community are becoming better aligned to support all River Rouge kids on their educational journey.

Voces Language Services Program

The Language Services Program of Voces in Battle Creek focuses on providing interpreter services to limited English language proficient families, as well as educating and building the capacity of healthcare providers, nonprofits, public services, and schools to better deliver meaningful language access to their clients.

Community LINC

Community LINC works to revitalize communities by empowering residents and providing them with the skills and opportunities to move out of poverty. It also works with Believe 2 Become to help children succeed in school, particularly in four underserved Grand Rapids neighborhoods identified as the Hope Zones. 

Cooking Matters for Families

With the Cooking Matters for Families, kids join their parents in the kitchen for hands-on cooking and nutrition sessions conducted by chefs and dieticians. Cooking Matters is a program of Share Our Strength and is administered in metro Detroit by Gleaners Community Food Bank. 

Our Kitchen Table

With Farmers’ Markets, cooking classes, and home gardening instruction, Our Kitchen Table is turning the tide for people living in Grand Rapids neighborhoods that had limited options for buying fresh, healthy food. This compact nonprofit is also addressing other health and social justice issues, like lead poisoning and air quality.  

Northern Initiatives

Attempting to launch a business in a rural area has its special challenges. The Small Business and Family Improvement Initiative: Launch, Grow and Prosper helps small business owners living in rural northern Michigan start and succeed in business.

Burmese Parents Summer Enrichment Program

The Burmese Parent Summer Enrichment Program is an answer to the needs of the Burmese refugee population in Battle Creek. Participants have a strong voice in determining program activities and classes, exercise their creativity, and learn new skills.  

Children’s Healthcare Access Program (CHAP)

Many studies show that children’s brains undergo the most important stages of development before they even enter Kindergarten. Yet for many kids and families, these important development years are a struggle. First Steps is working to fix these issues in Kent County. Through the Children's Healthcare Access Program (CHAP), First Steps provides high-quality preventative healthcare.

Martin Luther King Boxing and Mentoring Program

Kids learn more than left jabs and right hooks at the Martin Luther King Boxing and Mentoring Program in east Grand Rapids. The program’s one-on-one mentoring adds a Big Brother Big Sister-esque component and creates a family-like atmosphere for young athletes. 

All-of-Us Express Children’s Theatre

All-of-Us Express Children’s Theatre in Lansing has been raising the curtain and shining a light on area youth for over 20 years. The unique skills and experiences this organization infuses into the lives of youth permeate through to their futures, equipping them to not only be creative leaders, but leaders who understand the value of collaborative effort. 
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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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