Rick Gillett is long time philanthropist and advocate for the children of Grand Rapids and is passionate about their growth and development. “We feel so strongly for the Grand Rapids community and its children and making this a viable and vibrant place for all to live,” Rick said.
More than two decades ago, he helped create the Youth Enrichment Scholarship or YES! program at Grand Rapids Community Foundation. YES! provided ongoing summer camp experiences for promising students in Grand Rapids Public Schools. Those summer campers who enrolled in college received a $1,500 scholarship. Over the years, 279 students participated in the camp program, and 59 received or are receiving college scholarships. When Challenge Scholars was created, staff worked with Rick to create a program similar to YES! for Challenge Scholars students at Harrison Park and Westwood Middle School. It was launched in summer 2014, and 83 Challenge Scholars attended summer camps. This past summer, 128 students took advantage of programming at Kendall College of Art and Design, sports or computer camps or traditional overnight venues. “The variety of positive experiences one has as a youth can be connected to greater self confidence and real self worth as an adult. Camps are one of the best tools to give the kids these experiences. Over the years, we have seen YES! enrich the lives of the many students and open their eyes to a whole new world,” Rick said.
“I received a lot of inspiration from my father [Richard Gillet Sr.], who was involved with the Community Foundation,” Rick said. The senior Gillet served as Board president in the 1970s. “From him I learned the importance of a strong Community Foundation for a strong Grand Rapids,” Rick said.