Schools of Hope program canceled by Heart of West Michigan United Way



Aaden Carr, 7, plays a reading game with volunteer Diane Rothenthaler as part of the School of Hope Reading Program at Sibley Elementary School on Wednesday, November 18, 2015. Grand Rapids Public Schools currently have 14 schools participating in the program. (Emily Rose Bennett |

(Emily Rose Bennett)

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – After 15 years in business, Heart of West Michigan United Way has canceled its Schools of Hope program.

The program, which operates in 14 schools in the Grand Rapids Public School District, pairs more than 250 one-on-one volunteers with Grades 1 to 3 students to improve students’ reading skills.

In a press release, United Way CEO Michelle Van Dyke said the cancellation, effective at the end of the year, is due to a change in leadership for the association.

“Each year, we research the most pressing community needs,” said Ellen Carpenter, vice president of Heart of West Michigan United Way. “Our community impact team researched the needs of the community, looking for funding gaps and where we should be investing.”

Carpenter said there is already significant funding for reading and after-school mentoring programs. The team found that there were gaps in math and science in college.

“There aren’t a lot of funded programs out there,” she said. “In order to invest donor money and gifts as efficiently and as efficiently as possible, we are moving towards the direction of math and science.”

United Way will seek other options for current program volunteers.

“Schools of Hope has really helped thousands of kids improve their reading skills with some really dedicated volunteers,” Carpenter said. “It’s hard for us to say goodbye to this program, but math and science are more urgently needed.”

In the statement, Van Dyke said Grand Rapids public schools refused to support Schools of Hope as an internal program.

Right now, there is no clear outline of a new math and science-focused program or grant, Carpenter said. She expects more information to be available in a few months after the Schools of Hope program ends.

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