Philanthropy Supports Local Summer Youth Employment

Grand Rapids Community Foundation is helping local youth gain valuable work experience this summer with the help of a $400,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  The Community Foundation was awarded this grant to redistribute funds to nonprofit youth employment programs and increase employment and job training of about 250 young people ages 14-24.

“With high unemployment rates, out-of-work adults are filling many summer jobs that were traditionally open to young people,” said Marcia Rapp, Vice President of Programs at the Community Foundation. “But summer jobs provide more than just extra spending money; they increase job readiness and employability for young people in the future.”

A recent blog postranked Grand Rapids first on its list of “The Best Cities for Jobs This Summer.”  The post reports great news on the strong job outlook, but Kevin Stotts from the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce also notes that “a persistent challenge with many employers in the area has been finding qualified talent to meet their needs.”  “This is why summer youth employment is so important,” said Rapp. “We want young people in Grand Rapids to continue to live and work in our community. Helping our youth secure meaningful summer jobs provides valuable skills and experience that will make them a desirable candidate for a job in the future.”

With the Kellogg Foundation funds, the Community Foundation awarded grants from $5,000 to $60,000 to the following organizations:  Bethany Christian Services, City of Grand Rapids, Hispanic Center of West Michigan, Jubilee Jobs, New City Neighbors, Other Way Ministries, Project C. O.O. L., Steepletown Neighborhood Services, Wedgwood Christian Services, Inc. and Worldwide Christian Schools/Comprenew.

“These dollars will help to shorten our waiting list and will strengthen the employability and financial literacy components of our program,” said Stacy Stout, Education Director at the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan. “We want more than summer success; by connecting jobs to careers to college, we set young people up for lifelong career and academic success.”

In addition to the Kellogg Foundation grant, the Community Foundation used its Fund for Community Good to award a $75,000 grant to Project COOL. This is the third major grant to the nonprofit.

Not only do these organizations help young people find jobs, they provide training and work with both employers and students to ensure a positive, valuable working experience. To keep updated on some of these young people as they begin their summer job, you can follow the Community Foundation’s “Summer Job Journal” online at