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Urban League Receives Yes we can! Grant for New Project

The Southwestern Michigan Urban League has received a $400,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as part of its Yes we can! initiative, for a three-year effort to reconfigure its youth programs and strengthen its internal operations and systems.

“Working with the Yes we can! initiative provides us with an ideal opportunity to achieve our mission and at the same time work with community-based organizations that share our vision of a stronger, healthier Battle Creek,” said Urban League executive director Carl Word.

Yes we can! is a collaboration among Battle Creek residents and organizations working to help young people achieve greater success in school, make neighborhoods stronger, and increase economic opportunities for families. Yes we can! is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Family Focus, a new Urban League project to be based at the Boys & Girls Club, will bring the Urban League’s youth mentoring and scholarship programs, and related community activities under one coordinated structure. The goal is to improve academic performance and increase access to higher education. Family Focus will involve collaborations among a range of socially-engaged entities, including local school systems, the Future Force and Legacy Scholars programs, and a number of community organizations.

“A cornerstone of the Yes we can! approach to social change is promoting partnerships across the community,” said Donna Lartigue, program director for Greater Battle Creek programming at the Kellogg Foundation. “Through its Family Focus program, the Urban League brings an array of connections to effectively complement the current cluster of Yes we can! grantees.”

Family Focus programs will include the Sojourner Truth Girls Academy, and Restoration which focuses on young men. The programs build on the National Urban League’s strategy of “education and youth empowerment,” and are aligned with the goals of Battle Creek Public Schools to increase graduation rates, reduce the number of dropouts, and close achievement gaps. Battle Creek youth and their families will be engaged starting in third grade and continuing through high school.

Youth and their families will be involved in the planning, implementation, and assessment of the Family Focus project, with a Youth Advisory Committee supporting the organization in the development of its youth programs. A parent group also will be formed to help facilitate parent-to-parent interaction in support of the project’s goals.

The capacity building portion of the grant will target five areas critical to the ability of the Urban League to achieve its mission: fund development, program development, staff development, communication development, and technology upgrades.

“By strengthening its ability to operate, the Urban League better positions itself to offer quality, sustainable programs such as Family Focus to the Battle Creek community,” said Lartigue.

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