AAACF Youth Council mini grants help elementary students continue to serve the community

Arya Joshi shows a visitor the steps his Wines Elementary class took to purchase needed supplies for the Leslie Science & Nature Center.

Story and photos by Jo Mathis
AAPS District News Editor

Wines Elementary fifth grader Arya Joshi says it felt good to take part in a class project to help the Leslie Science & Nature Center.

“We went to the wish list at the Leslie Science Center and we saw so many things on there and we wanted to help out,” recalls Arja, whose favorite part was actually shopping at Target for the needed items “instead of just letting the adults do it.”

The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation’s Youth Council awarded Wines and five other AAPS elementary schools community service grants for such projects earlier this year, and last night recognized their work at a reception.

These “mini grants” of $100 per project were awarded to the following teachers:

  • Burns Park, Sandra Kreger, IHN Alpha House, Delonis Center, Humane Society of Huron Vally.
  • Eberwhite, Kelsey Lafferty, Leslie Science & Nature Center, Warm the Children, Chad Tough, Food Gatherers, Big Brothers Big Sisters.
  • Eberwhite,   Wright, Ozone House, IHN Alpha House, C.S. Mott Hospital, Humane Society of Huron Valley, Habitat for Humanity.
  • Haisley, Jim Weindorf, Fair Food Network, Bird Center of Washtenaw County, Humane Society of Huron Valley.
  • Lakewood, Tahani Othman, Parners in Personal Assistance, Clean Ware for Flint, Shelter Association of Washtenaw, Ele’s Place, Washtenaw Animal Shelter.
  • Wines, Julie Spiroff, Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, Ele’s Place, Ozone House, Humane Society of Huron Valley, Ronald McDonald House, Leslie Science & Nature Center.
Sandra Kreger’s class spoke briefly about their service projects at Burns Park Elementary.

The Hebrew Day School in Ann Arbor also received a grant for its work on behalf of Ann Arbor Active Against ALS.


Addressing the crowd, Superintendent Jeanice Swift expressed gratitude for the work of so many.

“The students, our community, our teachers, and our parents make these things happen,” she said. “I love the phrase and use it often: Our children are the postcards we send to a day we won’t see.  They will see. I’m so glad that when they get there, they’ll have that core value of giving in their hearts to extend to the next generation.”

Students learned about the many service projects during a project tour Tuesday at Eberwhite Elementary.

Since 1989, 238 high school students have served on the AAACF Youth Council, awarding more than $1.7 million in grants to support youth programs in Washtenaw County.  The Youth Council Mini-Grants Program began 20 years ago to support youth-led projects in Ann Arbor elementary schools.

Eberwhite Principal Bill Harris noted that the kids research local organizations and make a thoughtful decision on what to support with their $100 grants.

He said Ann Arbor already has so many great non-profits and service organizations, it’s nice to be able to support them and connect right to them.

“It’s all about student empowerment and it’s about making the connections between our day-to-day schooling life and service projects in our community,” Harris said.

Neel Hajra, president & CEO of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, noted that the foundation was founded 53 years ago with a simple mission: to enrich the quality of life in Washtenaw County.

“We love tonight because the reality is, philanthropy isn’t the exclusive realm of us old fogies,” he said.

When Hajra asked the students whose job it is to make sure their community is a great one, they replied in unison, “Us!”

That’s right, Hajra said. “Your job, our job, everybody’s job.”








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