40 & Forward: Education and the Community

By David Callejo, Carl A. Gerstacker Endowed Chair in Education at SVSU

Since its inception the Midland Area Community Foundation (MACF) has contributed to the educational legacy of Midland County.  From its onset, MACF has been invested in its dedication to enhance the educational opportunities so that a vibrant and healthy community could be formed upon the education of all its citizens; which today we can appreciate through the Youth Action Council, scholarships awarded annually, celebrations of educators and in the motivation of the community foundation to remain a responsive educational leader for the past 40 years.

Early Investment in Youth in the 1970s

The groundwork of MACF emerged from the role of a community foundation that would provide leadership to both the community and its future - the youth.  One of the first programs was the Willard H. and Martha P. Dow Loan Scholarship Fund, begun in 1974.  In the 1970s the Loan Program, Junior Achievement, College and Summer Camp Scholarships accounted for the largest educational investment for the Foundation.  These included the Northwood University and Delta College Scholarships, and the Interlochen Arts Academy Scholarship.  However, smaller grant and scholarship programs also included support for Big Brothers, Junior Achievement, and the arts.  These early investments provided a long-standing, life-changing tradition and investment, continued today in the impact that scholarships have for Midland students.

Growing Initiatives in the 1980s

In the 1980s MACF began a remarkable and proactive stage in the education of Midland by supplementing school programs and the arts for all children. These included providing materials or scaling successful programs to the entire county, such as the Youth Orchestra.  Additionally, the MACF provided grants for “wraparound education,” such as latch key programs, arts, youth development, and recreation.  Many programs focused on disadvantaged youth, including the “I Can Do” program in 1986, Teen Health Line, the Salvation Army Play Center, and the Midland County Schools Elementary Nutrition Project.

A social and community education campaign supported adult and supplemental education, such as parenting programs for single mothers, GED for young women, education programs for the Midland County Jail, purchasing of materials, computers, etc. for community based programs that included the Bullock Creek/Midland Adult Education Consortium, and the Kiwassee-Kiwanis Scholarship in 1988 for distressed farmers.  Proactive funding was also provided to address technical and social changes in schools.  These included funding computer labs, language programs, arts, vocational, and health education; including a pilot computer program at Sugnet School in 1982, assisting Midland Gifted Students, a challenge grant at Dow High School for a scoreboard and equipment/swimming pool, language immersion programs, support for the Bullock Creek Preschool Center, and the Barstow Family Fund establishing a “Dyslexic/Learning Disabled Student in higher education” program at Delta College in 1989.

The Midland Area Community Foundation had an active educational agenda for the first half of the 1980s in conjunction with the substantial growth in community giving to establish new scholarships for Midland Area Students, at an incredible rate of 20 to 30 per year in everything from the arts to technology to science to vocational education.  Some of these scholarships included the Shaler L. Bass, William Brasie, James T. Brooks, Business and Professional Women’s, D.B. Carlson Family, David N. Carmoude, Robert Cermak, Founders, Esther S. Gerstacker Hiram College Fund, Gerhard & Ruth Gettel, Stephen Gorman, Ray and Flora Hart Jeanette R. House, Pendell, Larry C. Smith, Irene Takahashi, and the Warren Yoder Scholarship Funds.

Moving Forward in Educational Leadership

Since the 1990s, new educational work has included influential initiatives, such as the establishment of the Midland County Youth Action Council (MCYAC), which emerged from a matching grant from in 1991 from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Dow, and MACF to provide access for community leadership for the youth.  In the last 20 years the Foundation has continued to focus on larger endowed funds and scholarships that emphasize students’ developing college success.  The growth in scholarships has risen from just under 100 in the 1980s to over 160 today.  Once again anticipating changes in the educational landscape, the Foundation has been active in leading and fostering partnerships with other community organizations to address educational issues that require the community’s attention.

It is important to recognize that the history of the Midland Area Community Foundation has been hitched to the successful education of all residents of Midland County and beyond.  As we celebrate the scholarship recipients and the impact that your contribution has for all Midland residents, we must appreciate and remember that in these difficult and uncertain economic times, the Midland Area Community Foundation continues to advocate and invest in Midland’s future.  MACF has provided over $1.1 million in scholarships to over 550 students since 2009.  One of the goals for the founding members of MACF was to invest in the education of our youth, leaving a lasting legacy of discovery and advocacy for future generations.  Thanks to continued support from the Midland community, that goal continues to be realized 40 years later.

MACF is celebrating 40 years of leadership, collaboration and giving in Midland County.  Since 1973 we have provided an avenue for individuals and organizations to change the community through philanthropic giving.  MACF awards grants and scholarships, offers the ability for individuals and families to invest in the community and serves as a catalyst for collaboration and change by leading community dialogue and action on critical issues.