Troy’s Kresge Foundation Donates $50M to Transform Detroit’s Marygrove College Campus Into Learning Center for Early Childhood Education Through Graduate Studies


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The Kresge Foundation donated $50 million to transform Marygrove College into an education hub for infants through graduate students. Other partners include U-M, Detroit Public Schools, and Starfish Family Services.

Photo courtesy of The Kresge Foundation

The Kresge Foundation in Troy today announced the donation of $50 million to the P-20 Partnership, a cradle-to-career educational partnership that will include an early childhood education center, K-12 school, and the introduction of teacher education training modeled after hospital residency programs. All aspects of the program will be housed at Detroit’s Marygrove College.The partnership is the largest philanthropic investment ever for a Detroit neighborhood.

“Community development isn’t just happening in downtown and Midtown, and it isn’t just about bricks and mortar,” says Rip Rapson, president and CEO of the Kresge Foundation. “This is community development that invests in people, in the social fabric that makes neighborhoods unique. That’s what the future of this campus represents.”

The campus will offer pre-K through graduate school studies and wrap-around services and community programs. The program is being developed through a partnership with Kresge, the University of Michigan School of Education, Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), the Marygrove Conservancy, Marygrove College, Starfish Family Services, IFF, and the Detroit Collaborative Design Center of the University of Detroit Mercy.

The early childhood education center will be a new construction, and the K-12 school will be housed in the former Bates Academy, originally Immaculata High School. The building will be renovated, and the space in the college’s Liberal Arts Building will be renovated for student and faculty use.

The first phase of the campus will include a ninth-grade pilot program to open in 2019, followed by the opening of the early childhood education center and kindergarten in fall 2020. Successive grades will be added each year, with all grades, undergraduate and graduate studies, and professional development courses and certifications, offered by 2029.

At full capacity, the early childhood center, which will be operated by Starfish, and the K-12 school, operated by DPSCD, are projected to serve more than 1,000 Detroit students and their families, primarily focused on the surrounding neighborhoods in the Livernois-McNichols district.

The campus will also offer degree and professional certifications for teacher education students of the U-M School of Education and graduate students of Marygrove College, respectively. A new teacher-residency program offered by U-M will place student teachers at the DPSCD school. After completing their degrees, they will work at the school as supervised resident teachers.

The announcement, which was made at Marygrove College, comes after the 90-year-old institution announced last year it would cease its undergraduate offerings due to burgeoning debt and falling enrollment.

After the announcement, the Kresge Foundation invested $16 million to help stabilize the college; restructure debt; finance academic and campus operations; cushion faculty, staff, and student transitions; and support the college’s shift to graduate education. 

Kresge then partnered with the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the founders and sponsors of the college, to create the Marygrove Conservancy, which immediately began to explore partnerships that could preserve the campus.

While similar campuses exist around the country, none include early childhood services through graduate education on one campus.

“Kresge is extremely proud to announce a partnership that puts education at the center of all other revitalization work being done in this community,” says Rapson. “We’re pleased to collaborate with all of our community partners who have come together to create a new model of neighborhood revitalization centered around investment in education right here in the heart of northwest Detroit.

“We believe this community is among the most promising in the city today. With this new P-20 concept, it will become one of the most promising in the country. This campus represents a diverse group of stakeholders, neighbors, faith-based groups, and educators who all believe in the future of this neighborhood.”

The early education center is expected to break ground in 2019 and open in 2020. Starfish, DPSCD, the U-M School of Education, and Marygrove College will co-design the curriculum. The facility is slated to provide full-day, full-year early childhood education services to infants through 5-year-olds with services catered to the whole family. Starfish has served thousands in metro Detroit for 55 years.

“It’s essential to support children from birth through higher education,” says Ann Kalass, CEO of Starfish Family Services. “The P-20 campus will be an opportunity to show how Detroit is putting young children and families first. Having the opportunity to integrate early childhood learning into a long-term higher education and career path with the DPS Community District and the University of Michigan’s School of Education is remarkable. We’re excited to partner with all of these world-class institutions to create a model that guarantees the best possible educational outcomes for Detroit’s children.”

After the phase-one ninth-grade class initiation in 2019, DPSCD plans to open a kindergarten and 10th-grade class in 2020, followed by the addition of another primary and secondary class each year. By 2029, all primary and high school classrooms will be staffed and filled. Neighborhood families will have priority enrollment.

DPSCD and the U-M School of Education are jointly developing the K-12 curriculum. Kresge will fund renovations of the district’s former Bates Academy school building, which is on the southeast corner of the campus.

“The cradle-to-college model demonstrates that DPSCD can simultaneously rebuild the district and introduce innovation,” says Nikolai P. Vitti, superintendent of the school system. “The magnitude of this partnership is priceless in that it expands the city’s portfolio of high-demand, unique, traditional public-school options and develops a much-needed teacher pipeline with one of the top universities in the country.”  

Vitti added the teacher-training component has the potential to attract college students to the teaching profession and retain teachers, as well as improve district enrollment.

“The School Board and I have been laser-focused on restoring the credibility of traditional public-school education so Detroit residents can send their children to the school in their neighborhood,” says Vitti. “To achieve this, we need to establish a district that retains its best teachers and develops the next generation of dedicated teachers while supporting them in the best facilities, so each child receives a high-quality education.

“Detroit cannot restore its potential without a high-functioning traditional education system. Investments and partnerships such as these signal that DPSCD is on the rise and will, once again, be the preferred educational choice of its residents.”

The P-20 model aligns with the district’s goals of improving enrollment, student achievement, attendance, test scores, graduation rates, and college-completion, as well as teacher development, retention, and attraction.

“This school will not be isolated from the rest of the DPSCD system,” says Vitti. “The innovations developed here will be shared and replicated across the system for the betterment of the entire district.”

For the teacher training school, new teachers will remain alongside veteran educators in primary and secondary classrooms for three additional years to continue their training, says Elizabeth Moje, dean of the U-M School of Education.

“For too long, universities have been largely separated from the pre-K-12 settings for which they are educating new professionals,” says Moje. “This is an opportunity for the School of Education to not only provide impactful teacher training, but to also create programs that teach children using evidence-based instructional practices carried out by exceptional leaders. We’re excited to develop teachers who are prepared to serve their students in any and every learning environment, and to create a model for preparation that honors the complex work of teaching and the need for strong communities of practice.”

Other U-M schools and colleges, including the College of Engineering, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, School of Social Work, School of Nursing, and School of Dentistry, have already partnered. 

A community meeting will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Oct. 15 in the Marygrove College main dining hall to gain input from local residents as the P-20 campus model is being developed. More meetings and opportunities to engage in the planning process will be announced. For more information, call (313) 993-1037.

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