Human Services

Kalamazoo Youth Development Network

Kalamazoo County is home to over 40,000 school-age youth, approximately 5,500 of whom participate in quality out-of-school time (OST) programming. Research demonstrates that when OST participation is high, there is no gap between the math achievement of low- and higher-income children at grade five. We also know that when OST participation is high, youth are more likely to attend and engage in school and to graduate on time.

The Kalamazoo Youth Development Network (KYD Network), formed in 2000 with the support of the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation (Foundation) and others, serves as the OST intermediary for Kalamazoo County. Our vision is that all youth are college-ready, career-ready, and community-ready by 21. We achieve this vision by ensuring that all Kalamazoo County youth, ages 5 to 21, have access to high-quality, youth-driven OST experiences that are inclusive, culturally relevant, well coordinated and that use resources efficiently to reduce disparities among youth. We work directly with more than 40 youth-serving organizations, many of which are funded by the Foundation.

Over the past four years, through the support of the Foundation, KYD Network has undergone a transformation. Our reach has increased from having seven youth-serving organizations in our “cohort” to more than 40. The tie that binds the cohort is a common focus on quality, because research shows that the higher the quality of the learning environment in OST, the better the outcomes for youth.

In order to better understand how to improve quality of OST programming, KYD Network partners with the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality to implement the Youth Program Quality Intervention (YPQI) with our 40 cohort members. The YPQI is an evidence-based continuous quality improvement process that requires organizations to use a tool called the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA). This tool has been researched and proven to be a reliable and valid measure of program quality for youth-development organizations. YPQA data are collected three times a year so that organizations can make improvements in their programming. Data from internal and external assessments are compared and each organization has access to a national database so that it can gauge its performance to similar organizations across the country.

Data from the YPQA have shown steady improvements in the quality of learning environments in our cohort (visit our website at for details). This is important because, again, we know that the higher the quality of the learning environment, the better the outcomes for youth. KYD Network also focuses on social-emotional learning (SEL) and uses the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) to track improvements in youth who participate in OST programming. Research demonstrates that as youth gain SEL skills — self-management, goal directed behavior, decision making — they do better in school and have more prosocial behavior. We have documented that the longer youth attend our cohort member’s programs, the more they gain these important skills.

A critical element to creating high-quality OST programming is youth voice, providing intentional and authentic opportunities for youth to design, implement, and evaluate OST programming and shape their community. KYD Network facilitates the Kalamazoo County Youth Cabinet (KCYC), a youth council made up of 10 youth from the county who work on issues they have identified as important to them and their community. KCYC is currently partnering with Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes on a photo-voice project to identify food insecurity in their lives and communities. Through workshop creation and facilitation, they are also helping to create learning opportunities for youth and adults to become allies in reducing stigma around mental health, creating a cadre of trained adults who can better support youth. The Foundation supported KYD Network’s partnership with The Neutral Zone, a youth-driven organization in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to provide training and coaching to KCYC during its first year of operation. KCYC has utilized and shared the skills learned from The Neutral Zone with both new members and other Youth Advisory Councils.

Through the support of the Foundation, KYD Network offered two workshops in collaboration with Dr. Robert Root-Bernstein, a MacArthur Fellow, eminent research physiologist, leading authority on the connection between art and science, and co-author of the New York Times best-selling book, Sparks of Genius. These workshops addressed the integration of the arts into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, thereby converting “STEM” to “STEAM.” Dr. Root-Bernstein further guided participants through his 13 thinking tools for creative problem-solving and provided hands-on strategies for helping youth gain the skills they need to be successful in the 21st century.

Over the last four years, KYD Network has been able to create a well-functioning OST system guided by quality standards, common outcomes for youth, core competencies for Youth Development Professionals, a community-wide approach to summer learning, and collaboration among our cohort members. The Foundation continues to play an instrumental role in supporting KYD Network’s growth and impact, helping to ensure that all youth are college-ready, career-ready, and community-ready by 21.

For more information, visit

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo

The mission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo is to enhance the quality of life of young people through education, art, health, and recreation, especially for those who need us most.

Boys and Girls Clubs are open after school to provide educational and recreational programs free of charge to youth in the community. Boys and Girls Clubs is dedicated to ensuring that the youth in Kalamazoo have a safe place to go, and access to quality programs and services that enhance their lives and shape their futures. We offer programming in five core areas:

  • Participating Arts — encourages creativity, focus, the importance of practice, and helps young people see the beauty in the world around them. The program offers youth the opportunity to participate in many art forms including digital, performing, and visual arts.
  • Character & Leadership Development — helps to instill confidence and a sense of self-worth that will remain with youth for years to come.
  • Education & Career Development — provides educational and professional guidance, tutoring, and mentoring, and gives members the tools to become successful adults and the confidence to achieve their scholastic and professional goals.
  • Health & Life Skills — encourages young people to engage in positive behaviors that nurture their own well-being and helps them set personal goals and live successfully as self-sufficient, healthy beings.
  • Sports, Fitness & Recreation — encourages youth to develop an understanding of and passion for fitness, sportsmanship, and teamwork. With different sports leagues and daily gym activities, youth always have an opportunity to be active.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo has three units located in neighborhoods where youth development opportunities are greatly needed — the Lake Street Unit is located in the Edison Neighborhood, the Douglass Unit in the Northside Neighborhood, and the Northeastern Unit in the Eastside Neighborhood. In addition to afterschool programming, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo offers a residential summer camp and programming for youth from each unit during summer break.

Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo helps young people make healthy and productive decisions by providing programs that address the developmental needs of youth, a safe environment in which to learn, supportive adult relationships, and recognition of individual potential.

For more information, visit

Parks Foundation of Kalamazoo County / KRVT Downtown Connector

The Kalamazoo River Valley Trail (KRVT), which saw its first groundbreaking in 1998, began as a vision of the Parks Foundation of Kalamazoo County and the Kalamazoo community. KRVT currently boasts 22 miles of beautiful and safe paved trails. Kalamazoo residents have demonstrated their love of the trail, and with each year trail use increases. In 2016, the trail saw more than 260,000 users walking, bicycling, exploring nature, commuting to work, and/or utilizing the trail as part of their exercise regimen. KRVT is proving to be a popular landmark for everyone.

Recently, community interest has grown around extending the KRVT through downtown Kalamazoo, affording users a safe and enjoyable connection to the restaurants, breweries, festival sites, campuses, and shops that make downtown fun and unique. The proposed route — determined by planning and engineering teams, stakeholders, community members and partners — ensures a safe and successful connection. Construction for the KRVT Downtown Connector has already begun, and projected completion is expected in the spring of 2018.

To learn more and to receive updates on the growing trail, please visit

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo – Participating Arts Program

Programs that are free of judgment and encourage self exploration allow children to participate unreservedly and to learn from their experiences. It is this type of environment for which our programs strive. Through full implementation of the Boys and Girls Clubs’ Youth Development Strategy, an environment is created which helps girls and boys enhance their self-esteem and achieve their full potential. The Youth Development Strategy strives to instill a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging, and influence through programs and activities offered at the Club. The Participating Arts Program allows Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo to provide a safe environment for youth to explore and engage in the arts. From choir performances to art exhibits to variety shows to photography to dance recitals, members have been exposed to a myriad of cultural experiences that may not have been possible without the presence of this program. The Clubs’ target population benefits greatly from this opportunity to expand their horizons and build their sense of creativity. Ultimately, a well-rounded education is one that includes the Arts which in turn supports a child’s entire development, including improving their propensity to learn math and science. The Participating Arts Program offers students the opportunity to learn new art forms and the skills involved. It also teaches the importance of participation and practice. Not only does the program offer training for developing new skill sets, it offers an outlet for expression. Many of our youth have very little voice in their homes, their schools, and their communities. Some have been written off by society because of their race or economic status. Their unheard voices have left them with feelings of frustration and anger, and without a positive outlet, they will often act upon those feelings in unhealthy, destructive behaviors. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo ensure that our members have an outlet to express themselves.

Edison Neighborhood Association – Go Green Deconstruction Project

Like other low-income neighborhoods in the nation, the Edison Neighborhood has literally been devastated with tax and mortgage foreclosures in the past 10 years. For Edison, the main foreclosure problem stemmed from landlords refinancing their rental property and then not making the payments, and other landlords realizing the expense of maintenance was greater than the rent they were able to obtain. Coupled with declining property values, these landlords just walked away from these houses. Today, nearly all of these houses are still vacant. They are in such dilapidated condition due to vandals, animal habitats, lack of maintenance, and drug use that nobody will purchase them, even in the County Scavenger Auction for the mere $50 starting bid. Many of these houses, although they are beyond livability, have incredible trim, flooring, foundation beams and other unique materials that can be re-purposed and/or reused in other ways. Taking a deconstruction approach with the goal to reuse all of the materials in home renovations, art projects, landscaping mulch, benches, planters, and a multitude of other uses is far better for our environment than filling up our landfills with usable materials. Our goal is to have only one 40-yard dumpster per house of unusable landfill materials versus the average 120-160 yards of trash put into the landfill with an average demolition. By hiring Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program (KPEP) participants to assist in the removal of savable materials, Edison Go Green Deconstruction teaches some of these folks helpful new job skills while they earn a paycheck and a positive job reference for their resume.

Ministry with Community

For over 30 years, Ministry with Community (Ministry) has been opening its doors to those who are struggling in Kalamazoo. Whether the issue is homelessness, poverty, unemployment, substance dependency, or mental illness, everyone is welcomed into an atmosphere of respect, compassion and unconditional acceptance to begin the process of rebuilding their lives. As Kalamazoo’s only daytime shelter and resource center, Ministry works to meet individuals’ basic needs with meals, showers, laundry facilities, and mail and telephone access. Ministry’s services then go deeper, with social work, counseling, employment support, and educational and enrichment opportunities.

Ministry is also part of a dedicated group of human service agencies in Kalamazoo, and works to marshal the resources available while removing barriers. Ministry acts as a venue for its partners to provide services Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center on-site, including Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes, Legal Aid of West Michigan, Housing Resources, Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, CARES, and many others.

A vibrant community is one in which all people, regardless of backgrounds or circumstances, are afforded the chance to be respected, supported, and ultimately, self-sufficient. That work begins at Ministry.

Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center

The primary focus of the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center (Resource Center) is youth programming. Working with area schools we have trained educators on best practices regarding the ramifications of bullying on all marginalized youth populations. We have also fostered a relationship with each public high school in the Kalamazoo/Portage area, working directly with administrators, staff, and students to create an accepting community. Our online harassment reporting system, the Bully Button, is present at all area schools, offering a consistent method of reporting bias incidents in Kalamazoo and the surrounding areas.

The Resource Center recognizes the intersecting identities facing much of our community. Many parts of our identities can subject us to discrimination, so the Resource Center is working with the Alliance For Justice, a local coalition of organizations pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. This coalition is beginning the push to share stories of those who are affected by immigration reform, while being inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues such as binational same-sex couples.

Overall, the Resource Center has been on an incredible upswing in outreach and impact over the past two years. The staff and board of directors look forward to continued growth, expansion, and creating a community that celebrates the diverse spectrum of all sexual orientations and gender identities.