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Long-time Children's Advocate Embraces New Role

As Matt Gillard takes the helm of Michigan’s Children, a statewide, nonpartisan advocacy group, he plans to move children’s issues up the priority list for elected officials. 

Fighting for Better Outcomes in Delray

Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition formed in response to plans for an international bridge development in the Delray neighborhood. Better park maintenance and a safer environment for local kids will help remedy the impact.

Family-Type Support for Foster Youth

An innovative program, Blue Babies, is reinventing foster care service in Michigan by providing round-the-clock family-type care and letting kids steer programming. Its work has helped create a community of foster care youth and alumni that help one another even after they age out of the system.

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. 

Frank McGhee

As the leader of Neighborhood Service Organization’s Youth Initiative Project (YIP), Frank McGhee sees the potential of young people from some very tough neighborhoods; he guides them through the process of addressing issues that trouble their community, and they grow as leaders along the way. 

Kayla Mason

Raised in South Central Los Angeles, a low-income community where youth face many challenges to success, Kayla Mason found her voice at the young age of 15 advocating for improvements in schools and in the community. While the path to get here has been laced with many organizing victories, she is mighty fired up about her role as director of YOUTH VOICE, an organization of Detroit youth who tackle political and social issues to create change. Mason has even developed her own trademarked model to help youth become agents of change in their own life and in their community. 

Dianne Shaffer

Advocacy Services for Kids is an agency devoted to supporting families and bettering children’s mental health in Kalamazoo County. Its director, Dianne Shaffer, leads with solid faith in teamwork – both within her organization and outside of it, joining with community partners who share the same goals. 

Sharon Loughridge

As executive director of Grand Rapid’s D.A. Blodgett - St. John’s, the largest child welfare agency in west Michigan, Sharon Loughridge, believes that many of the barriers facing vulnerable children can be torn down by a human hand. D.A. Blodgett - St. John’s 22 programs work to keep families in tact, but when children can no longer stay in their homes it also provides shelter, foster care, and adoption services. 

Michael W. Hamm

Michael W. Hamm, director of the MSU Center for Regional Food System, and his staff are devoted to the good health and development of all Michigan youth. The center’s creative programs and initiatives, like Michigan Good Food and Hoophouses for Health, are helping to ensure that more children have balanced, produce-rich diets. 

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.

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. 

Lori Antkoviak

Five years ago, Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center was in dire straights, leaving too many sexually abused and neglected children under served, according to its current executive director, Lori Antkoviak. A lifelong champion of children, she swiftly turned things around, substantially expanding services, including educational outreach, and medical attention, counseling, and temporary shelter for Allegan County’s abused youth.

Ponsella Hardaway

MOSES Executive Director Ponsella Hardaway believes in the power of community organizing to change things for the better; not just lip service, but real, honest, open dialogue between people to find common cause. It’s sometimes difficult and uncomfortable, but she says it’s the only way to make real change. 

Norman Bent

After two decades as an administrator at Wayne State University, Norman Bent decided to take a year sabbatical. But he wasn’t idle for long. Through his involvement in southwest Detroit’s Latino community, he was soon tapped to lead the Consortium of Hispanic Agencies, and a new career was born.

Susan Reed

Supervising attorney Susan Reed is inspired by the strength and resiliency of her clients at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. The center is creating a more equal future for all children and building a base of support for immigrants in the communities where they live. 
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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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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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