In the fall before Henry and I were married in 2011, we were walking and dreaming about our future together. We discussed making a difference in our community by way of impacting our youth; we wanted to give our youth something we didn’t have.
What is now known as I AM Academy actually took shape in the living room of our friends’ house. Growing up in the area ourselves, we all knew that there were many missed opportunities, a lack of safe spaces where we felt like we belong, and hardly any adults who looked like us. We were brainstorming ideas for how to make the greatest change for our society and within our community after the murder of Philando Castile. From 2016 – 2020, we began to research and test different strategies for best practices. This is when Tomorrow’s Leaders was formed and other different mentor models were tested within the West Ottawa and Holland Public School systems. After officially publishing and presenting Lindsay’s thesis in 2019, we knew we were ready and began finalizing the plans for making I AM Academy an official non-profit.
Without any knowledge about how to go about creating a non-profit and without funding, we knew we had a long road ahead. However, a member from our community reached out and we received a grant from the Holland Zeeland Community Foundation which helped us speed up the process and have the resources necessary to create this program. As believers, we believe that this idea/dream was planted by our creator Himself, the seed has been watered, fertilized, and transformed to the creation of I AM Acamedy in 2020. We are now with Urban Apostolic Network out of Kalamazoo, as they will be our non-profit covering and partner in the work and transformation in West Michigan.