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Liz Youker

Liz Youker, educational director of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, wants to ensure that every elementary-aged child in Kalamazoo Public Schools has an opportunity to play the violin, cello, flute or oboe. Working toward that goal, she oversees Kids in Tune, which she considers a great career accomplishment.

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.

Jeff Sturges

Jeff Sturges came to Detroit with the idea that the damaging effects of poverty and racism can be overcome by handing people tools to create the life they want. He’s done that by founding Mt. Elliot Makerspace, where he emphasizes the need for people to look outside traditional structures to accomplish their goals.

Amy Harris

Amy Harris, director of the University of the Michigan Museum of Natural History in Ann Arbor, understands the importance of learning outside the classroom and how it affects the young people who discover what a museum has to offer. With a passion to expand minds through museum-sponsored experiences, Harris lures children to the wonders of natural history with exciting exhibits and innovative programming.

Lisa Machesky

As executive director of the Baldwin Center in Pontiac, Lisa Machesky sees daily the growing divide between rich and poor. She envisions a future where every child has an equal chance for success, and Baldwin Center’s enrichment and education programs for kids and basic needs assistance for families mean Pontiac children have a better footing for the future.

Bridget Clark Whitney

Since childhood, Bridget Clark Whitney, executive director of Kids’ Food Basket in Grand Rapids, has known that serving underprivileged people was her calling. She has devoted her entire career to ending childhood hunger, helping to make sure that thousands of children in greater Grand Rapids and Muskegon do not go to bed hungry.

Chet Decker

Each month, Chet Decker, executive director of Hope Center in Macomb, is responsible for feeding around 1,700 children through the client choice food pantry that he runs. Cuts to government emergency food funding, coupled with increased food costs, have Decker worried about funding at a time when there are more mouths to feed in Macomb County.  

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.

Alice Brinkman

Alice Brinkman, executive director of REACH Studio Art Center in Lansing, approaches her role as a leader with passion. And although leadership doesn’t come as naturally as she would like, Brinkman is determined to confront difficult situations and learn better ways of doing things all in the name of growing a great neighborhood art center.

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. 

Terry Blackhawk

Melding together the talents and energy of professional creative writers and students, Terry Blackhawk, Ph.D., founder of InsideOut Literary Arts Project, has been helping to turn Detroit kids into authors and poets since 1995. 

Lorena Slager

Lorena Slager taught art after graduating from Calvin College with a degree in art education. Then she opened a coffee shop, The Sparrows Coffee Tea & Newsstand, and most recently co-founded the Creative Youth Center, a nonprofit that empowers kids through writing. As executive director, Slager proudly works from the center’s new digs on Wealthy Street. 

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.
186 Articles | Page: | Show All
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Bright Ideas


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.


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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