Outreach Spotlight: Kids First Initiative

Last year, I participated in a fantastic outreach event in Detroit and knew I had to write about them for Science in Color's first 'Outreach Spotlight' series. The event was organized by Kids First Initiative, a Michigan-based non-profit that started off with a group of teachers and Michigan residents motivated by their hearts and compassion to fulfilling a need that went unmet in their community.

Michigan winters are bitterly cold, and as a California native, learning to survive winters in Ann Arbor, Michigan was one of the greatest skills I acquired in Graduate School. Kids First Initiative began when Richard Bell, along with colleagues and coaches at local schools, noticed kids coming to school without necessary winter clothes and took it upon themselves to purchases hats, coats, and gloves to distribute to these kids. But the Kids First Initiative didn't stop there, continuing to grow and eventually became the incredible organization it is today. "Always Putting Kids First" essentially sums up their mission but those four words have a significant impact on the community.

The event we attended was a career expo aimed at exposing high school students to a multitude of colleges and career opportunities. As part of the University of Michigan's Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) chapter, we were invited to talk to students about considering a career in science. We brought materials to speak to them about admissions at U of M, as well as cool science demos.

We were set-up between the Fire Department table and  Film school which gives you an idea of the variety of careers the students were exposed to. It was refreshing to see an outreach event that was grounded in reality. As great as it would be to have every student go to a huge university and eventually grad school, it's an unrealistic expectation. Going to art school, film school, nursing school, or joining the police force, students should have the opportunity to learn about ALL of their options.

Kids First Initiative holds a multitude of events, such as in-school workshops teaching students about professional behavior, providing meals during the holidays, as well as providing a summer STEAM Workshop for Grades 2-7. One of the most amazing projects they have is Project Phoenix which aims to help families escape homelessness and poverty. Every year a family is selected, and they are given a home to live-in for a year, RENT-FREE. Childcare, employment, and support are provided as well.

Kids First Initiative doesn't just focus on the local community; they have even extended their reach to Haiti where they provide aid. As a Haitian-American, I am well aware of the plight of my people; it warms me to know that an organization is doing so much for the community around me and also helping kids overseas.

Science in Color is proud to feature Kids First Initiative as our first 'Outreach Spotlight.'