Grant Brings Summer Jobs to Grand Rapids Youth

Grand Rapids Community Foundation is helping local youth gain valuable work experience for the second summer in a row with funds from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  A $900,000 grant was provided to the Community Foundation to support the summer jobs program for both this summer and next. The program, which began in 2011, is focused on helping youth in underserved neighborhoods maintain, or increase, entry level job training and employment. Last year, 256 young people were employed through a similar Youth Employment grant. This year, program organizers expect a slightly higher turnout of young people ages 14-24 to participate.

“Grand Rapids’ unemployment rate is 18 percent and in some neighborhoods 30 percent,” said Community Foundation’s Vice President of Programs, Marcia Rapp. “Youth are competing with unemployed adults for the entry level jobs that were historically filled by teens and college students.”

 “With this grant, we are working to temporarily fill youth employment gaps and increase youth access to jobs and training,” said Marcia Rapp. “This grant provides young people with the opportunity to work while still being able to focus on education and positive life goals in order to be successful in their future employment and careers.”

With the Kellogg Foundation funds, the Community Foundation awarded grants ranging from $5,000 to $60,000 to 12 organizations. Some grant funds were used to provide a leader training session for all of the participating organizations. Organizational leaders participated in discussions and activities about teamwork, communication, business etiquette, workplace ethics, goal setting and conflict resolution, as well as in the areas of managing change and taking initiative.

Ryan Nettesheim of Bethany Christian Services said the grant is a great opportunity for the area and the youth. “It allows us to expand what we’re doing, so we can hire more youth, increase our programming and better manage our programming,” he said. “Across the board, in almost every area the funding allows us to do things a little bit bigger and a little bit better.”

The Community Foundation distributed the 2012 grant funds to the following nonprofit organizations: Bethany Christian Services, City of Grand Rapids, Hispanic Center of West Michigan, Jubilee Jobs, New City Neighbors, Other Way Ministries, Kids Food Basket, Project C. O.O. L., Steepletown Neighborhood Services, Grand Rapids Urban League, Wedgwood Christian Services, Inc. and Worldwide Christian Schools/Comprenew.  Young people interested in summer employment should contact the nonprofits.

To see what is happening on the summer job front through this grant and to follow some of these young people as they begin their summer job, the Community Foundation has created a multi-media blog, “GR Summer Jobs Journal ‘12” online at


Grand Rapids Community Foundation leads Kent County in making positive, sustainable change. With its endowment, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation supports local nonprofits, leads significant social change and helps donors achieve their philanthropic goals. For more information, please visit

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, established in 1930, supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and southern Africa.  For further information on the foundation, please visit