New Program Seeks to Improve Public Education with Help from Business Leaders

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New Program Seeks to Improve Public Education with Help from Business Leaders

February 8, 2019, Detroit, Mich. – To identify and prepare local leaders to serve on the governing boards of Southeast Michigan public charter schools, the Detroit Regional Chamber has partnered with Central Michigan University (CMU) and Grand Valley State University (GVSU) to create the Detroit Board Leadership Program.

The board leadership program aims to connect business leaders who have the right mix of skills and a desire to help Detroit’s kids succeed academically, with open seats on public charter school boards.

“The goal of the Detroit Board Leadership Program is to be intentional about improving the quality of these public charter school boards, and we are seeking leaders who have a passion for education who can be ambassadors for a school’s accomplishments and challenges,” said Dan Piepszowski, senior director of Community Leadership Development for the Chamber.

Public charter schools educate approximately 80,000 children in Southeast Michigan and are responsible for $730 million in state and federal funds. Unlike school districts, whose board members are elected, public charter schools are governed by volunteers who are publicly appointed to their position by the board of trustees of the authorizing body that has chartered their school. Each board member is vetted to ensure that they are free from conflicts of interest and will govern in the best interest of the students their school serves. Their actions are overseen by their school’s authorizing body.

CMU and GVSU, the largest public charter school authorizing bodies in the state, collectively authorize more than 43 percent of the public charter schools in southeast Michigan.

“Great public charter schools all have one thing in common: They are governed by effective boards that operate with integrity, focus on community and, most importantly, are committed to academic excellence,” said Rob Kimball, associate vice president for charter schools at GVSU.

“We’re excited to partner with the Chamber on the Detroit Board Leadership Program. It is an innovative way to connect the exceptional skills of the region’s business leaders to schools in a role where they can have an immediate impact on kids and families in their very own neighborhoods.”

In addition to providing ongoing training and leadership for potential board members, the program is designed to create a pipeline for those who are prepared to fill the vacancies that can occur on public charter school boards.

“These individuals play a vital role in addressing educational inequities and making key decisions that will determine educational outcomes for thousands of children,” said Corey Northrop, interim executive director for CMU’s Center for Charter Schools. “When a vacancy occurs, that particular school and board are serving with one less leader, so the cultivation process and development of a direct channel to have potential board members ready, and waiting to serve, is a real game-changer.”

The comprehensive training provides interested board applicants a deep-dive into board governance and responsibilities; a broad understanding of the current education landscape; insight into how public charter school boards work with their school authorizers and operators, and; the importance and value of boards being connected to the communities that they serve.

Leaders who complete the training will be introduced to local public charter school boards that are seeking new members and will receive support in advancing through the public appointment process necessary to be considered to serve on that board.

Interested candidates can apply by visiting

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About Detroit Regional Chamber

Serving the business community for more than 100 years, the Detroit Regional Chamber is one of the oldest, largest and most respected chambers of commerce in the country. As the voice for business in the 11-county Southeast Michigan region, the Chamber’s mission is carried out through creating a business-friendly climate and value for members, leading a robust economic development strategy, and convening Michigan’s most influential audience at the nationally unique Mackinac Policy Conference.

About The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University

CMU is a state and national leader in the charter public school movement, with over 20 years of experience launching, supporting and overseeing charter public schools. CMU created The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools to support the schools it charters. The University currently authorizes 58 schools serving more than 28,000 students throughout the state.

About Grand Valley State University

GVSU currently authorizes 78 K-12 charter public schools that serve more than 36,000 Michigan children. GVSU’s schools are diverse and innovative in their programming as each are designed to meet the unique needs of the communities and families that they serve.

2019 Legislative Priorities Focus on Growing the Detroit Region

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Board of Directors recently adopted its legislative priorities for 2019. These 14 priorities, which are critical to economic development and growth of the region, include investing in infrastructure, support for a reliable regional transit system, maintaining a pro-growth tax structure, and creating pathways to postsecondary education and careers, among many other pro-business policy issues. This year’s priorities are aligned with the five pillars that guide the Chamber’s economic development strategy to position the region for global competitiveness.


  • Maintain a pro-growth tax structure that allows Michigan to compete globally for business and talent.
  • Encourage smart spending policies and long-term budgeting that prioritizes fiscal solvency.
  • Maintain a regulatory climate that is conducive to Michigan’s growing economy.
  • Support reforms for Michigan’s criminal justice system that reduce lengthy and costly sentences and provide age-appropriate rehabilitation.
  • Support policies that expand employment opportunities for chronically underemployed populations.


  • Increase dedicated infrastructure funding and lead efforts to prioritize regional transit options for the Detroit region.
  • Encourage regional policies that are consistent with state and federal law and balance local needs with economic growth.
  • Promote policies that increase access to health insurance while opposing policies that drive up costs for employers and individuals.


  • Maintain rigorous K-12 standards that allow students to succeed in the global economy.
  • Create greater accountability for quality and siting in charter schools.
  • Increase postsecondary education attainment through policies such as increased dual enrollment and expanded, need-based financial aid.

Global Connectivity:

  • Create pathways to career opportunities in the automotive industry that develop high-skilled talent, including support for immigration reform and the attraction of international students.
  • Promote smart trade policy, including continued USMCA participation and resisting short-sighted trade restrictions or tariffs that inhibit growth.

Next-Generation Mobility:

  • Support policies that allow Michigan to continue to lead in research and development testing for next generation mobility solutions and other emerging industry sectors.


Howes: Region’s ‘upward trajectory’ bucks new headwinds

December 4, 2018

The Detroit News

By: Daniel Howes

Just when the region is showing signs of “sustaining its upward trajectory,” as the Detroit Regional Chamber terms it in its fifth annual “State of the Region” report, two of its automotive heavyweights are signaling tougher times may lie ahead.

General Motors Co. is poised cut 8,000 salaried jobs and idle production at four U.S. plants next year, affecting 3,300 jobs. Ford Motor Co. is contemplating (still) a restructuring plan that is expected to impact its salaried workforce, even as it lays plans to rehab the dilapidated Michigan Central Depot into a hub for next-generation autonomy, mobility and electrification.

Contradictory? Not exactly, according the report to be released Tuesday. The region’s growth in real gross domestic product is outpacing the national rate, notching a 2.7-percent gain compared to 2.2 percent nationally. Per capita income in the Detroit region grew by 4.3 percent, compared to 4.1 percent nationally.

And as critical as GM and Ford remain to the regional economy — and the state’s identity — the automakers account for a smaller overall share of the state’s workforce and economic output. That’s not-so-good news, considering this town’s history, that might not be so bad.

“We are still on an upward trajectory,” Sandy Baruah, CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said in an interview Monday. Median home value growth between 2013 and 2017 rose by 42.4 percent, second only to Seattle. And growth in the millennial population over the same period expanded by nearly 10 percent, more than Atlanta, Boston, Pittsburgh and Chicago.

“There’s a cool factor to Detroit,” said Rick Hampson, Michigan president for Rhode Island-headquartered Citizens Bank, sponsor of the annual survey. Quicken Loans Inc. Dan Gilbert’s family of companies “have been cool companies to work in for a long time.”

But they’re not the only ones, as both startups and legacy companies like GM and Ford woo tech talent in increasingly large numbers; as the rehabilitation of central downtown creeps beyond the Woodward corridor and Midtown; as steeply rising costs on the coasts make comparatively affordable Detroit more attractive.

Vacancy rates offer supporting evidence. Industrial vacancy rates in the region are among the lowest in the country for the fifth straight year, and for the first time in years office vacancy rates now track below the national average. All good.

Not so good: Detroit is the poorest major city among its peers, despite seeing its poverty rate improve to 34 percent from 41 percent five years ago. The metro region’s overall population growth is anemic, creeping up a meager 0.3 percent between 2014 and 2017, compared to 3 percent nationally. Its community well-being index ranks the Detroit region 145th out of 189 communities, hardly the makings of a chamber recruiting campaign.

All of which serves as a prelude to the most consistently urgent — and, it appears, hard to address — conundrum: educational attainment in the region and across the state. It continues to get worse, the chamber found, echoing numerous other studies compiled by educational think tanks and business groups.

“We’re a losing team in a losing league,” Baruah said, making exactly zero attempts to sugar-coat a message that should embarrass parents and teachers, administrators and lawmakers across the state. “It’s not just your neighbor’s school district that is a problem. It’s your school district that’s a problem. When you look at the statewide numbers, we keep going down.”

Ask yourself: How can Michigan make the case to become the next-century hub of transportation technology if it can’t educate the talent to staff the companies providing that technology? How can it attract that talent from high-cost Silicon Valley or the northeast if it fails to offer anything approaching an educational value proposition?

Answer: It can’t. And folks locked into a comfortable 20th-century model that effectively holds that mediocrity is good enough will learn the hard way that it’s not. Not much of a legacy, that, to leave your children.

“This has been a red flashing light since we started this report,” Baruah said. “If we don’t solve this problem, it’s going to be a problem.” It already is.


View the original article here


K-12 education in Michigan: ‘A losing team in a losing league’

December 4, 2018

Crain’s Detroit

By: Chad Livengood

The metro Detroit region’s low unemployment rate, booming rate of construction permits and millennial population and per capita income growth beating national averages is not enough to gloss over the hard truth about an educational attainment rate trailing peer regions.

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s State of the Region report offers yet another sobering assessment of where Southeast Michigan lags most — and it starts in the classrooms of K-12 schools and continues at the campuses of public and private colleges.

“On K-12, I think it’s safe to say Michigan is a losing team in a losing league,” Detroit Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah said in an interview for the Crain’s “Detroit Rising” podcast.

The percentage of adults in the region with a post-secondary degree or credential stands at 40.3 percent, well behind competing regions like St. Louis (43.5 percent), Pittsburgh (45.2 percent) and Minneapolis (52 percent).

“We continue to shallow against our national competitors and the United States as a whole continues to shallow against our (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) competitors,” Baruah said. “So it’s not just your neighbor’s school district that is struggling — all of our school districts are struggling, even in some of the most affluent neighborhoods in the state.”

The Detroit Chamber uses its annual State of the Region report to benchmark the region’s economic progress. Baruah will present the report’s findings to chamber members Tuesday at a luncheon at Ford Field.

Southeast Michigan’s lagging higher education attainment rate can be traced to other leading economic indicators:

  • Median household income rose to $58,411 in 2017, a 12.6 percent increase since 2013 that lags behinds the national average of 15.5 percent.
  • The city of Detroit’s 34.5 percent poverty rate has declined from 41 percent five years ago, but remains the highest among peer cities, followed by Cleveland (33.1 percent), St. Louis (20.3 percent), Pittsburgh (20.2 percent) and Atlanta (19.3 percent). The national poverty rate is 13 percent, according to the report.
  • The population of the Detroit metropolitan statistical area grew by 0.3 percent or 7,000 residents in 2017 as the Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh regions posted population losses. But the percentage of metro Detroit’s population increase paled in comparison to Minneapolis (4.1 percent), Atlanta (6.7 percent), Seattle (7.1 percent) and Dallas (8.5 percent).
  • The 62.3 percent labor participation rate for adults in southeast Michigan also was the lowest among the peer regions the Detroit Chamber compares metro Detroit to. In Minneapolis, the peer Midwest region with a 12-percentage point advantage over Detroit in adults with degrees and certificates, the labor force participation rate was 72 percent in 2017, according to the report.

The labor participation rate made a slight dip from 2016 when it was 62.4 percent.

Baruah said the report underscores the need for Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer and the new Legislature to focus next year on supporting higher education, skilled job-training programs and Michigan’s bottom-rung K-12 educational performance.

“What the Legislature and the governor need to do? I would say it’s a lot,” Baruah said.

There are positive signs for the state’s economic growth, with a 31.7 percent year-over-year increase in construction permits issued for the region, while the Detroit region’s gross domestic product grew by 2.7 percent, beating the national average (2.2 percent), according to the report.

“We’re still growing, but some of our percentage is not as impressive as it used to be vis-a-vis national competitors,” Baruah said.

New this year to the Detroit Chamber’s report is a section tracking population growth in millennials (ages 25-34). This segment of the population grew by 9.7 percent between 2013 and 2017, trailing just the trendy and booming tech hub of Seattle among Detroit’s peer regions.


View the original article here

Detroit Regional Chamber Reports Economy Continuing Upward Trajectory

December 4, 2018


By: Tim Keenan

The Detroit region’s economy continued to improve during the past year in just about every measurable category, according to officials from the Detroit Regional Chamber at its annual Economic and Automotive Outlook today at Ford Field.

The chamber reports year-over-year growth that outpaces the national average in real gross domestic product, per capita income, exports, patents, median home values, and residential construction permits.

“The region’s progress over the past year is prevalent throughout the report, having outpaced the national average in many key areas including real gross domestic product and per capita income,” says Sandy K. Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “Last year alone, per capita income rose by 4.3 percent in the region.”

Real GDP in the region increased 2.7 percent versus year-ago figures. Per capita income grew 4.3 percent. Exports jumped 8.1 percent. Patents moved up 8.8 percent. Median home values improved 6.8 percent. Residential construction permits increased 31.7 percent compared to 2017.

For the first time since the recession, office vacancy rate in the region (9.5 percent) fell below the national vacancy rate (10 percent).

“For the second year in a row, foreign direct investment in the region was more than $2 billion,” says Baruah. “With a robust and innovative automotive and technology ecosystem, southeast Michigan continues to prove that its leading industries can evolve and thrive. But this report not only highlights where the region is performing well, it also showcases areas for continued improvement.”

One of those areas is the poverty rate, which is at 34 percent, even after five years of improvement. Educational attainment also is an area in which the region continues to lag behind despite a 1.2 percent increase compared to a year ago. That increase, however, was the largest year-over-year gain since the report’s inception, and the area’s population with an associate’s degree or higher grew by 3.8 percent compared to last year.

“While progress is being made, we cannot take our eye off the prize,” says Baruah. “We need to ensure the region’s citizens have access to education and jobs, and are healthy to compete in a 21st century economy. This is a top priority of the Chamber Foundation’s economic development strategy, which is committed to making meaningful progress to address the region’s challenges.

“Detroit has recovered, and the region’s future looks bright,” he continues. “Through regional collaboration and continued support from civic, business, and government leadership, the city, region, and state will continue to thrive.”

View the original article here


Detroit Chamber endorses Gretchen Whitmer for governor

October 17, 2018

WXYZ Detroit

The Detroit Regional Chamber has announced their support for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gretchen Whitmer.

Whitmer released this statement following their endorsement:

“I’m so proud to have this endorsement because we need a governor who can bring both parties together to solve problems and get things done for the people of Michigan. I’ve got real plans to help our businesses grow and attract talent to Michigan by fixing our roads and infrastructure, making health care more affordable, and ensuring every Michigander has a path to a high wage skill. As governor, I’m ready to partner with the Detroit Chamber and everyone else who wants to make Michigan the place people move to for opportunity again. Let’s get to work.”

The Chamber originally backed Whitmer during the primaries.

View the original article here

$30K grant gives 8 Detroit neighborhoods makeovers

October 5, 2018


Neighbors in eight areas about to see a makeover thanks to a $30,000 grant.

GM and the Detroit Regional Chamber awarded the Neighbor-Hub grant to help fix up Eden Gardens Block Club on Glenfield Street on Detroit’s east side. “I screamed and I said thank you! I said thank you so much thank you so much because we had no idea we were going to get it,” said Karen Knox with Eden Gardens Block Club.

It’s a grant that will create a safe space for kids and elders — a pocket park that merges young and old in one neighborhood.

“Elders have something to offer. They have the wisdom of life that they can give to children and the children have the wisdom of today’s world and technology and this is an exchange that we are bringing here to our community to make a more positive impact on the children and all the adults,” Knox said.

Dennis Markray is a volunteer.

“My father lives in the neighborhood and he rides his bike so he can come over to the park and be able to enjoy it,” he said.

He’s been helping change this patch of land across from abandoned houses into a safe spot for all generations.

“Detroit is a whole lot more than what people think. And when people come together they can make some really powerful things happen,” he said.

Officials say more than 100 people applied for the grant. Now Eden Gardens Block Club is working to make it into a unique spot blending old and new, including chess tables and outdoor cardio walkers alongside playscapes.

The blueprint was put together by Karen Knox and Polly Jones.

“All that’s happening downtown is great,” Knox said. “But we are still here in the community among the blight, among the burnt out houses. So it is us that has to work hard to rebuild this neighborhood to make it a place where we are welcoming other people to come in and rebuild. Downtown is great to come out here.”

Volunteers from Hastings drove down to help make this happen.

“The need here it’s just incredible. Just seeing that there’s so much need and it just motivated us to want to come down and help,” said Jenny Stoetzel.

Other recipients include Motown Museum, Detroit Phoenix Center, and the Detroit Theater Organ Society and five others.

View the original article here

Detroit Regional Chamber, General Motors Announce NeighborHUB Grant Winners

• Eight grants up to $30,000 awarded to Detroit neighborhood nonprofit organizations.
• More than 100 applications received; number of grant awards increased from five to eight.
• Yearlong project work to begin this month.

DETROIT, Mich., Oct. 5, 2018 – Today, the Detroit Regional Chamber and General Motors announced the awardees for the NeighborHUB grant program during a press conference at the Northwest Activities Center in Detroit. Eight neighborhood nonprofit organizations will receive a grant and in-kind business support for innovative and collaborative solutions to problems their community faces. The NeighborHUB program is a collaborative effort between the Chamber and General Motors that is designed to empower residents in Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park to affect change in their neighborhoods through physical presence and innovative programming.

The grant awardees include:

1. Carrie Morris Arts Production (CMAP)
2. Detroit College Access Network and Detroit Parent Network (DCAN)
3. Detroit Phoenix Center
4. Detroit Theater Organ Society (DTOS)
5. Eden Gardens Block Club
6. Hubbard Farms Neighborhood Association
7. Motown Museum
8. Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency

“The response to this program was incredible, both in quality and quantity of proposals,” said Terry Rhadigan, executive director of Corporate Giving at General Motors. “We’re proud to have expanded the support to eight awardees and are excited to see the change the projects make across Detroit.”

The NeighborHUB program was announced earlier this year at the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference and the application period launched in July. Through a collaborative process a advisory selection committee composed of representatives from the Chamber, General Motors and a representative from local organizations including the Department of Neighborhoods for the City of Detroit, Community Development Advocates of Detroit, and Michigan Community Resources, reviewed and voted on the proposals.

“We are confident that the committee selected organizations that will use the grant to provide their neighborhood with viable and innovative resources,” said Tammy Carnrike, chief operating officers for the Detroit Regional Chamber. “It is our hope that this program will serve as a roadmap for creating change in other communities across Detroit and the region.”

More than 100 grant applications were submitted, and the selection process was very competitive. Given the selection committee is made up individuals heavily involved with community nonprofit organizations, there were several instances where committee members had to recuse themselves from reviewing and voting on certain proposals.

Project work will begin this month and continue until October 2019.

NeighborHUB Grant Program Awardees

Carrie Morris Arts Production (CMAP)

• Project: The CMAP Amphitheater and 2019 Outdoor Summer Series
• Scope: This project will create an amphitheater and provide free, multilingual family-friendly performance programming across 12 formerly vacant lots serving the West Campau and Banglatown neighborhood.
• Grant Award: $30,000

“We are thrilled to receive support from the Detroit Regional Chamber and General Motors via the NeighborHUB grant program. This support for our physical infrastructure expands our reach, allowing us to provide free, multilingual, family-friendly performance programming to twice the number of our current audience members in 2019.”

– Carrie Morris, Founder and Director, Carrie Morris Arts Production

Detroit College Access Network and Detroit Parent Network (DCAN)

• Project: The Pathways to Higher Education and Careers Center (P-HECC)
• Scope: This partnership will support the Pathways to Higher Education and Careers Center and help connect both parents and students to higher education, workforce development, skilled trades, on-the-job training, and other opportunities that lead to a postsecondary degree and increased income.
• Grant Award: $30,000

“We are thrilled to expand our multigenerational approach of empowering parents as champions for their children to also address the significant gap in educational and career attainment in our neighborhoods. At DPN we engage, equip and empower parents to become leaders in schools and the community. With this startup grant and our partnership with DCAN, we can now train parents as Cradle to Career Ambassadors to help more youth and their parents to navigate the complexities of colleges, trade and workforce programs. Our Family College Drop In Center designed by and for parents along with College Cafes in the neighborhoods will help build more Pathways to Opportunity so that ALL of the families in Detroit can thrive!”

– Jametta Lilly, Chief Executive Officer, Detroit Parent Network

Detroit Phoenix Center

• Project: Asset Based Resource Center (ABRC)-Zen Zone
• Scope: This program will support the Asset Based Resource Center’s Zen Zone to provide support services and a safe, inclusive and youth-centric environment for disconnected, homeless and runaway youth in Detroit.
• Grant Award: $26,500
“The impact that this project has on our community is unmatched. The development of the Asset Based Resource Center – Zen Zone helps ensure that the most vulnerable youth in our community have a safe, affirming and inclusive environment to access critical resources and support. Thus, aiding in the likelihood that they will thrive in school, on the job and in life. When our youth thrive, our communities thrive.”
– Courtney Smith, Executive Director, Detroit Phoenix Center

Detroit Theater Organ Society (DTOS)

• Project: Welcome to The Senate: Catalyzing Community Cinema
• Scope: This grant will foster neighborhood engagement and expanded community use of the Senate Theater by transforming its vacant adjacent lot to a new useable community space and replace the theater’s missing marquee.
• Grant Award: $30,000

“Welcome to The Senate is a project that is going to help the Detroit Theater Organ Society share the magic of the movies and the Mighty Wurlizter with all of our neighbors, while beautifying our block. We are so thankful the NeighborHUB program is powering this initiative!”

– Lindsay Robillard, Playing Member, Detroit Theater Organ Society

Eden Gardens Block Club

• Project: Bringing Generations Together Through Clean and Safe Play
• Scope: This program will create a multigenerational, community-built playground that will serve as a hub for building positive relationships between community children and seniors, as well as promote fitness activity for all ages.
• Grant Award: $30,000

“Our multigenerational playground project will impact the community by serving as a central hub for social interaction between neighborhood youth and seniors. It will transform two vacant lots into a family-oriented space filled with laughter and promoting physical fitness. It will be a space where children can learn about leadership, cooperation and play. And, it will provide an opportunity for seniors who may be housebound to get fresh air and exercise. Our community will be impacted greatly by this project and we are extremely grateful to the Detroit Regional Chamber for the opportunity to make it a reality.”

– Karen Knox, Executive Director, Eden Hardens Block Club

Hubbard Farms Neighborhood Association

• Project: Fit & Funky: Culture and Wellness Programming in Clark Park
• Scope: Named “Fit & Funky,” this program will build on existing park assets to create community space for residents’ young and old by bringing fitness and music to the north end of Clark Park in southwest Detroit.
• Grant Award: $30,000

“Our collaborative neighborhood project between Hubbard Farms and Clark Park is all about bringing our neighborhood residents and families together within Clark Park by creating opportunities to enjoy time together. Whether it is gathering to hear music in our park during a regularly scheduled weekly summertime evening or being able to grab a neighbor to go work out together on our new fitness trail because spending time together as neighbors, develops an extended neighborhood family that cares for one another.”

– Deborah Sumner, Founding Member, Clark Park Coalition; Board Member, Hubbard Farms Neighborhood Association

Motown Museum

• Project: Dancing in the Street
• Scope: Titled “Dancing in the Streets,” this grant will help transform the green space adjacent to Hitsville U.S.A. into a community gathering space and provide programming such as: health screenings and fitness programs; food truck rallies and cooking competitions; popup shops for local businesses and much more.
• Grant Award: $30,000

“Dancing in the Street will transform a vacant Museum lot into a year-round gathering space designed to bring tourists and Detroit residents together through the love of Motown music. Motown Museum recognizes its responsibility to serve as a community resource in the Northwest Goldberg neighborhood and is proud that Dancing in the Street will offer a community gathering space that is safe and interactive. Long before the Museum became a place to visit, the grounds of the Hitsville home was a safe space for aspiring musicians to learn, create and socialize.”

– Paul D. Barker, Director, Development and Community Activation, Motown Museum

Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency

• Project: Quality Housing Incubator at the Cortland Community Impact Center
• Scope: This grant will help launch a Quality Housing Incubator to provide hands-on home repair and weatherization instruction for area residents. The space will also be open for neighborhood gatherings.
• Grant Award: $30,000

“The NeighborHUB award will support Wayne Metro’s larger effort to transform and revitalize blighted neighborhood properties in Highland Park into a safe, clean and productive destination for community members seeking a variety of supports. Our efforts will focus on renovating a formerly abandoned house across from our Cortland Community Impact Center into a hands-on home repair and weatherization training and demonstration center for entry-level contractors throughout Southeast Michigan. This Quality Housing Incubator will also serve as a welcoming, accessible space for neighborhood gatherings and will strengthen residents’ sense of community with places to meet, share and volunteer together.”

– Anne Zobel, Chief Program Officer, Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency

Please note, grants were awarded based on the amount requested by the organization. Learn more about the projects at

Detroit’s Adult College Students: ‘It’s Never Too Late to Go’

For the region’s 690,000 adults with some college education, no degree or credential, returning to school can seem daunting, especially for individuals saddled with debt. Recognizing the need to grow Southeast Michigan’s talent pipeline, Detroit Drives Degrees is working with regional leaders to increase access among adults to pursue postsecondary educational opportunities for high-quality credentials, two-year and four-year degrees.

Detroit Drives Degrees hosted its Leadership Council meeting in June, bringing together leading representatives in higher education, business, government, philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. This meeting focused on adult talent and how adults can find their way back to and complete postsecondary education.

Working on a Dream

For Bob Ellis, a real estate agent and Macomb Community College (Macomb) student, returning to school was a big life decision. Raised in a working-class family, Ellis said college was never encouraged. But after a series of setbacks in his 40s, he realized he wanted to improve his life and follow his dream of getting a degree. Ellis returned to school to enhance his skills and follow his passion to help people.

Ellis struggled early on in college, as he lacked the necessary reading comprehension and study skills required at the college level. It wasn’t until he was placed into a student cohort that he was able to excel, learn study habits, and feel part of a community. Ellis transferred to Wayne State University (WSU), but faced higher tuition bills and a sense of uncertainty about his chosen degree path. He’s put his college attainment on hold while he saves money and further explores career opportunities after he obtains his degree.

Tiffany Treadwell returned to college after a career in retail with companies like Apple and Shinola. Treadwell said through her sales experience, she developed an interest in advocacy and human resources. Committed to return to school to obtain a bachelor’s degree but with few financial resources, Treadwell applied for a job with the university to take advantage of WSU’s tuition-free policy for employees. The transition back to school was challenging and although she used WSU’s tutoring programs, she didn’t meet the academic requirement for her first semester. Determined to continue, she used her advocacy skills and appealed her case to the Provost’s Office. She’s now back on-track, working and in school, as well as helping the university improve their systems for re-engaging adult students.

Both Ellis and Treadwell shared their story as part of a panel discussion moderated by David Scobey, director of the national initiative, Bringing Theory to Practice. Bringing Theory to Practice encourages and supports colleges and universities in developing sustainable campus cultures that support engaged learning and discovery, civic purpose, well-being, and preparation for a meaningful life.

A second panel moderated by Melanie D’Evelyn, director of Detroit Drives Degrees, featured Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management at WSU, Scott Anderson, vice president of human resources at Comcast, and Scobey. Focusing on the roles that institutional leaders play in an adult’s education, panelists discussed the importance of changing the learning practices that are in place, and rules that could potentially leave behind adult students due to grades or unpaid debt.

Finding Your Way Back to School

Businesses are encouraging adult education through tuition reimbursement. Comcast offers tuition reimbursement to employees and research by the Lumina Foundation showcases the return on investment for employers. WSU now offers one of the most innovative strategies in the country to re-engage adult learners. As announced at the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference, WSU created the Warrior Way Back program for returning students. Warrior Way Back relieves past student tuition balances of former students who did not graduate.

Detroit Drives Degrees is also working to improve opportunities for adults to further their education, by focusing on creating a community of leaders that can be used to learn from each other to continue to create opportunities for adults to continue to pursue their degree. Detroit Drives Degrees is also developing a formal compact among higher education partners and others to better track and measure components of the talent pipeline, like reducing the percent of the adult population with some college, no degree.

To learn more about the Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council visit: