Marygrove Conservancy shines in Impact Report

Established in 2018, The Marygrove Conservancy built on the legacy of the historic institution that provided excellence in education for over 90 years at the Northwest Detroit campus. 

This past weekend, at the annual Campus Day, revelers celebrated their wins. An Impact Report was released that shows that the institution stands strong with sincerity and focus even in the most challenging times. 

According to the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who remain stewards of the campus, the goal of the Conservancy is “May each person who benefits from programs and services of the Conservancy be inspired to make transformative change in their communities, workplaces, and society through deep learning, creativity and imagination, active compassion for others, and life-long commitment to a just, humane and inclusive world.”

The launch of The School at Marygrove will see three full classes of high schoolers in the 9th, 10th, and 11th grades this fall. 

The children of the Marygrove-Fitzgerald Community are central to an innovative pre-K-20 educational partnership to improve access to higher learning. The Conservancy oversaw the build and launch of a $15 million early childhood education center that served families even through the coronavirus pandemic. 

In the report, Conservancy CEO Tom Lewand writes that like the secondary school that focuses on social justice and design thinking, “The Conservancy, along with partners and friends on campus and in the community, has also been hard at work applying those same principles in developing a master plan that has as its core a focus on justice, inclusion, and empowerment.”

And significantly, in partnership with Strategic Community Partners, the Community Impact Incubator launched, providing support for small businesses and organizations in the community. Marygrove College alum Dr. Rita Fields led monthly intensives for the five incubator members to help them grow and scale their companies and programs. 

Five community organizations receive unprecedented support

For Courtney Smith, her organization's participation in the inaugural incubator program meant the support of her peers. “The best part of my experience in the program is leaning on, gleaning from, and being supported by fellow incubator cohort participants. It’s not often that you can bond with leaders who know and understand the challenges of being a Black nonprofit leader,” Smith says. “It’s been pretty humbling to connect with my amazing peers.” 

Smith is the founder of The Phoenix Center, which provides support to homeless youth in Detroit. The Conservancy connected her with like-minded thought leaders and office space. 

The Detroit Phoenix Center, JOURNi, Detroit City Lions Football Club, Detroit Youth Choir and Performing Arts Company, and the Pure Heart Foundation were all connected to funding sources, professional support, and more participation in the incubator program. 

“Having an office suite at Marygrove allows us to increase our programmatic footprint,” Smith says. “Additionally, the learning opportunities through the impact incubator have helped us to reimagine service delivery and walk through plans for sustainability.” 

Supporting artistic projects

In addition to the participants in the Community Impact Incubator, more than 50 other businesses and nonprofits were able to benefit from space on the 53-acre campus, including creatives like photographers and food entrepreneurs who utilized kitchen spaces that would have sat dormant after the college closed its doors. 

In the Impact Report, Chief Operating Officer Racheal Allen announced a partnership with legendary artist Theaster Gates. 

The Chicago native will bring his expertise in working with and supporting artists to create a transformative space for art inside the storied halls and available properties throughout the neighborhood. 

“Marygrove Conservancy is privileged to have Theaster’s thought leadership and experience as a resource to our campus master planning and neighborhood redevelopment efforts,” Allen said in an interview earlier this year. “This partnership will specifically support the creation of artistic-based, ethical development projects for artists and entrepreneurs of color in the Fitzgerald and Bagley communities.”

As a storyteller for the Conservancy and an alumna of the institution, I am constantly in awe of the growth and progress that is taking place on what could have been just another beautiful, empty Detroit relic. 

Instead, the Marygrove Conservancy is leaving an even greater imprint on its surrounding neighborhood and, like its mission reads, is preserving the legacy of Marygrove College through equitable stewardship of a campus that exemplifies excellence in education, serving Northwest Detroit and the city overall.

This is part of a series supported by Marygrove Conservancy that will showcase the work the nonprofit organization is doing to preserve the legacy of Marygrove College and how it is serving Northwest Detroit and the city overall.
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Read more articles by Biba Adams.

Biba Adams is a regular contributor and project editor for Model D. Formally Model D's Editor at Large, she is a longtime journalist whose work is fueled by her passion for people and her native Detroit. Find her on all social channels @BibatheDiva.