Cradle to Career

Marygrove College and The Kresge Foundation partner to expand education in Detroit.
Marygrove College gate
Marygrove College in Detroit is expanding its educational mission with a K-12 and an early childhood curriculum as well as offering community services.

Marygrove College in Detroit is undergoing a revitalization project that’s bringing together toddlers, college students, community leaders, and everyone in between.

The school has announced it will host a novel program that will include early childhood education, K-12 schooling, undergraduate and graduate studies, and offerings such as health and dental clinics, behavioral health services, and counseling for students and families.

“This project is all about providing a comprehensive approach to education from cradle to career,” says Wendy Lewis Jackson, managing director of the Detroit program for The Kresge Foundation in Troy.

The program, dubbed the P20 project, is the most recent evolutionary stage in Marygrove’s rebirth, fueled by a $50-million donation from Kresge. The college ran into hard times in 2016, reached out to Kresge, restructured its finances, and eventually cut its undergraduate programs in August 2017.

“We felt it was a critical investment for Detroit at this time,” says Jackson, noting that improved education is an essential component of neighborhood revitalization.

The funds will bring an early childhood center to the campus, with
programming managed by Inkster-based Starfish Family Services. IFF, a mission-based lender, real estate consultant, and developer, will oversee
the creation of the center. The K-12 school, part of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, will be housed in existing, soon-to-be-renovated buildings.

Undergraduate involvement will come from the University of Michigan’s School of Education in Ann Arbor, whose students will help teach on the campus as part of their program — think something akin to a hospital residency for teachers. Other departments from U-M also have expressed interest in getting involved. Marygrove will continue to offer its current graduate programs, although most of its students are enrolled in online programs.

“It will be a much busier campus than it is now, and we’ll all be looking forward to that,” says Elizabeth Burns, president of Marygrove College.

Ninth-grade students will start in September, and admission to the high school will be exam-based. Kindergarteners will start in 2020, and the early childhood education center will be open the same year, following a 2019 groundbreaking. Subsequent grade levels will be added at the high school and elementary school levels each year, with all grades scheduled to be in place by 2029.

At full capacity, the program is designed to serve 1,000 students and their families. “You need to have quality education. You need to have reasons for parents to move to the city and stay in the city,” Burns says. “If you’re going to build the city back up, you need families.”

Jackson says the effort makes education a priority and is a catalyst for other investments in the area. “It’s a project that has a tremendous ripple effect because you’re putting schools at the center,” she says.