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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. 

Ann Raftery

Ann Raftery can rest easy knowing the impact she is making through her work as director of sleep programs at Sweet Dreamzzz, a program that teaches good sleep habits to southeast Michigan children and their parents. She wants all children to have a fair chance at learning and growing up healthy and has designed effective curricula to help make that happen.  

Lynn Whalen

On a daily basis, Lynn Whalen, women’s advocate at Mel Trotter Ministries, sees women experiencing life-changing transformation. Serving homeless people in the Grand Rapids area, Whalen oversees the agency’s shelter for women and children. 

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."

Barbara Israel and Ricardo Guzman

Shared commitment and shared leadership at the Detroit Urban Research Center between director Barbara Israel, board member Ricardo Guzman, and others has helped this organization effectively address community health issues for 18 years. The Detroit URC conducts research and implements programs and policy strategies to reduce health inequities and improve health in Detroit neighborhoods. 

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.  

Dorothy Pintar

Dorothy Pintar, director of the School Success Partnership at Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency in Alpena, works to make sure all kids have the opportunity and possibility to succeed in school and live out their dreams. 

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.  

Christopher McCoy

Christopher Jay McCoy, executive director of New Level Sports and senior pastor of Faith Assembly Christian Fellowship Church in Battle Creek, believes that leaders are trailblazers. Through his work, local kids are experiencing healthy relationships through mentoring and finding success in school, while negative cultural stereotypes are lessoned.  

Jeannine Gant

After spending two decades in the nonprofit sector working in development and fundraising, Jeannine Gant wanted to become more directly involved in the ideas that make change. So, in 2010, she became executive director of Playworks, a national organization new to Detroit teaching the power of meaningful play.

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. 

Kristin Martinez

Kristin Martinez, environmental education manager for The Greening of Detroit, experiences a sense of awe when the environmental concepts she teaches in school classrooms click with students when they see them outdoors. She leads groups of urban kids into the wilds of Detroit’s largest city park through the Our LAND program, empowering them to be good stewards of their own neighborhoods and surroundings.  

Martha Gonzalez-Cortes

A west Michigan native from a farm worker household, Martha Gonzalez-Cortez now leads the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan. She stands up for social justice issues and is finding effective ways for Hispanic youth to find school and life success. 
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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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