Slancik (l) of the Community Foundation recently worked with Kalamazoo
Center for Youth and Community's Sam Lealofi (r) to change the lives of
not only the students the organization serves, but its staff too.
Kalamazoo Center for Youth and Community
(KCYC) helps young people who live in poverty in Kalamazoo’s Eastside
and Eastwood neighborhoods succeed in school and in life.
“We’re a virtual community center with the success of young people as
our principal goal,” explains KCYC executive director Sam Lealofi. “We
know that when quality youth development happens, students will have
improved outcomes at school. They will also develop in social and
KCYC’s programs offer development for students who might otherwise
not have such opportunities. The focus on Kalamazoo’s eastern
neighborhoods is because that is where the greatest percent of county
families live in poverty — 263 percent higher than the county average.
From 2000 to 2011, that number grew by 60 percent.
Since 2012, KCYC has received grants totaling $460,000 from the
Community Foundation in support of these efforts, which are directly
aligned with the Community Foundation’s fundamental priorities of
ensuring that every child has an equal chance for success in school and
is prepared for life beyond school.
“There are multiple roles we can play and a range of tools we can use
to leverage change,” says Amy Slancik, a community investment officer
at the Community Foundation. “We work behind the scenes, while our
grantee partners — high quality organizations like KCYC — are on the
front lines, providing direct services to the people who need them.”
“We also keep a close eye on emerging community opportunities and
challenges so we can help Kalamazoo County nonprofits address them
appropriately,” she adds. “Our support of KCYC does that.”
"We know that when quality youth development happens,
students will have improved outcomes at school."
~ Sam Lealofi
Lealofi says the support KCYC has received from the Community
Foundation has dramatically changed the lives of both KCYC students and
“For our staff, it provides educational and occupational
opportunities. For our students, it assures that our programs offer
quality youth development,” Lealofi says.
KCYC works with some 20 community partner organizations and its programming is built on evidence-based best practices.
Among its core programs, which serve more than 200 neighborhood
youth, KCYC supports efforts like the Boys and Girls Club and CHAMPS.
KCYC also provides individual student services to elementary school
children through a focus on literacy and school success. Northeastern
Elementary School is a key partner. Through this initiative, a dozen
elementary children each year receive specialized tutoring through the
SLD Learning Center and occupational therapy through Western Michigan
This collaboration benefits both the elementary students and the WMU
students who work under direct supervision of WMU faculty, who are
themselves registered therapists. In this way, local resources are
leveraged to achieve greater benefit for all of KCYC’s partners and the
community as a whole.
Another program, Teens of Tomorrow, helps students find and express
their voices as future leaders. In 2013 the program sent two teens to
the Jeter’s Leaders Conference in Chicago, where they met other young
leaders from around the country.
Says Slancik, “This is a great example of a partnership that is creating community change.”