Giving Back in Grand Rapids (Send a GRPS Student to Camp)

I recently received this letter from a friend and love the work being done to come alongside the students of my former high school, Ottawa Hills, here in Grand Rapids. It is no secret that the school and many of it’s students are hurting and are in need of attention, mentorship and discipleship. I know I am not alone in thinking back to our days at Ottawa with fond memories. I remember fondly  that Young Life was a strong force in my faith walk even in high school.  I am still in touch with many OHHS grads and many of us say the same thing… “We should be doing more to help.” Well here is a tangible way to change a life and it sounds like more opportunities are on the horizon as this group is striving to pour into the Grand Rapids student community. “Q” has made a difference in the lives of many children who need a role model. I know him personally and would love to do more to support his efforts with the kids. Please let me know if you have any questions. I realize not everyone may be capable of full sending a child to camp but could you afford to pay a portion of a child’s camp fees? I look forward to hearing your ideas and thoughts.
I wanted to share with you some of the exciting things that are happening at Ottawa and ask you for your help.
Steve Timyan, Mark Stacy and I have come along side Urban Young Life to do three things; one, raise money to support Quentin(Q) Henry, the Urban Young Life Area Director; two, help get 100 students from our urban area to Young Life’s Timber Wolf Camp in Lake City Michigan this summer; and three, help support Academic Upgrade, an exciting three year old after-school program that is trying to raise the academic needle of over 90+ students at Ottawa this academic year.
As you know the student population has changed greatly since you and I attended Ottawa. The white families have left for the suburbs, the black families that can have left to the suburbs or charter schools so we are seeing the poor who have many needs. A high percentage of the students come from families where there is no father in the home. For a multitude of reasons, there are few positive role models who are encouraging students to stay in school, keep up their grades, respect authority and aspire to higher education.  The situation seems almost insurmountable.
The one thing that has remained the same is Young Life is still at Ottawa Hills winning the right to be heard in the lives of high school students. Quentin Henry along with a couple of volunteer leaders have been given open access to love on kids in the name of Jesus. This in itself is remarkable because at our suburban schools where Young Life is flourishing, the name of Jesus is rarely spoken at school. In the City, His name can be openly shared because of the reputation of “Q” and the embrace of Young Life by the Administration.
Academic Upgrade is a voluntary after school program that is coordinated by Mr. James Burress, Mr. Bennet Gay and Quentin Henry. The goal of the program is to help freshman through seniors become academically successful. There is tutoring help,  guest speakers to encourage and motivate, a character based curriculum to teach proper coping skills, along with incentives for working hard, including a year end trip on June 10th to Atlanta Georgia to visit Tennessee State University.
Here is where we need your help. We have committed to raise $40K/year for three years to support Academic Upgrade. Grand Rapids Public Schools is fully supporting this program also with upgrading facilities, staffing and access. Your tax deductible check can be made out to the Student Advancement Foundation at 111 Library NE  Grand Rapids, Mi 49503 or by going to and donating online. Susan Heartwell, the Executive Director,  has been doing an incredible job faithfully coordinating support for GRPS in a variety of important areas for many years.
For each student to experience a week at Young Life’s beautiful Timber Wolf Camp this summer in Northern Michigan we will need to raise $350/student.  We want to impact 100 students. Can you support one student? Your check can be made out to Urban Young Life(M 130) – Camper Scholarship and mailed to Urban Young Life at PO Box 68206  Grand Rapids MI or by going to  and click on giving.
On behalf of Urban Young Life we would like to invite you to be a part of our team that supports Urban Young Life on a monthly basis.  We want to sustain Urban Young Life so it impacts high school and middle school students for years to come. Let me know if you are interested.
“Why are you asking us?”,  you might be asking. We have come to believe that all of us have a very large stake in the survival of our students and our great City. We can’t sit back and say the problem is to big and not be involved. The problem is big and the rapidity with which it is increasing is alarming but there are solutions. Urban Young Life and Academic Upgrade are two very good solutions.
Would you also be willing to forward this email on to your circle of friends or let me know their emails/numbers and I will be happy to get in touch with them.
Thanks for reading this email and thank you for your past support and concern.
Dave Ellis        Steve Timyan          Mark Stacy
Peace and Grace to you,