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Programs highlight mentoring, computer science, literacy, science club, creative expression and more

Kalamazoo, Mich., (January 8, 2015) – Inspired by the outpouring of community support and educator enthusiasm for the Inspired Learning grants, the Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo and the Kalamazoo Community Foundation this week went beyond its initial plans and announced five grants and one honorable mention recognition for local educators.

“While the Inspired Learning grants program was designed to award four grants, there were many worthy ideas,” says Amy Slancik, The Learning Network director at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. “We added two additional grants and wish we could have done even more! The enthusiasm around the submissions was fantastic. From the educators who made the submissions, to the thousands of people in the community who voted on them, to the local leaders who helped select the recipients – there’s a powerful commitment in Kalamazoo County to innovative learning ideas.”

In light of this commitment, Slancik says, the decision was made to go beyond the planned four grants and awarded one additional $2,500 grant, for a total of five, as well as one honorable mention recognition, which comes with a $1,000 grant.


Following the final judging session by a panel of Kalamazoo County community leaders, these innovative learning ideas are being recognized:

  • Jane Baas for a mentoring program for Milwood Magnet Middle from WMU's Future Leaders of Kalamazoo.  
  • Binney Girdler for the Beebots computer science program at Woodward Elementary School.
  • Kandace Lavender for supplies and experiences to enhance education for students at a local foster care home.
  • Francesca Pileci-Bates for ABCDance: A Literacy through Movement Program for pre-school-age children.
  • Katelan Schoen for a Northeast Middle School science club.
  • Honorable Mention: Laura Henderson for the Big Dreams project and Youth Led Creative Justice.

“It was inspiring to see the scope of ideas presented and the broad support generated through the community voting process,” says Von Washington, executive director of Community Relations for The Kalamazoo Promise and one of the panel judges. “Every submission demonstrates a strong commitment to our region’s children and our collective future.”

“The Kalamazoo region has a storied history of innovation," notes fellow judge Carl Brown, principal and founder of Kalamazoo-based digital marketing firm Roguebotic. "It's exciting to see the Community Foundation and The Learning Network engaging community feedback to choose innovative education projects to support."


The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo and the Kalamazoo Community Foundation kicked off the Inspired Learning grants program in October to empower local educators to launch innovative learning ideas. Four grants of up to $2,500 were offered to Kalamazoo County teachers, volunteers or other educators who work with kids and want to inspire them with an innovative learning program.

To apply, educators simply needed to upload to the program’s Facebook page ( a short video explaining their idea. From December 2 through December 12, people could visit the page to vote for their favorite videos. Voting narrowed the submissions down to the top 12 videos. Next, the panel of community leaders from Kalamazoo County selected the final four recipients of the grants.

There were 44 submissions for grants and more than 13,700 votes were cast by the community. Ultimately, five recipients received $2,500 grants and one honorable mention received a $1,000 grant.


The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo brings community together to increase cradle-to-career educational success for everyone in Kalamazoo County. We track key education measures, facilitate action networks that drive educational readiness and adult learning, and rally resources and support for improved learning.