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College and Career Pathways, K-12 Education

Tonya Allen, President & CEO of the Skillman Foundation, Wins 2017 Nicholas P. Bollman Award

Each year, the Funders’ Network recognizes a leader committed to building strong, sustainable, and equitable communities with the Nicholas P. Bollman Award. We proudly announce that the recipient of the 2017 Bollman Award is Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation, who has dedicated herself to investing in transformative ideas, removing barriers to opportunity, and improving lives in her hometown of Detroit. Allen was presented with the Bollman Award at the Funders’ Network Annual Conference in Saint Paul, Minn., March 21.

Allen can trace her dedication to the residents of Detroit, and her belief in the power of philanthropy, to her grandmother’s front door. As a child growing up in the Motor City, Allen watched as her grandmother, herself an activist and neighborhood organizer, would welcome those most in need into her Southwest Detroit home.

“Families would come to my grandmother’s house in the middle of the night because their water was out, or they didn’t have heat. And she would always open her door,” said Allen. “What I took from those lessons is that we all are gifted. You don’t have to be gifted with much, but you’re gifted with something. You can help other people even when you have very little.”

The Bollman Award Selection Committee recognized Allen for her determination, drive, and insistence on fostering collaboration and implementing innovative programs.

Allen joined the Skillman Foundation in 2004. She developed the Skillman Foundation’s 10-year, $100-million Good Neighborhoods program, which provides services to meet community-established goals for improving the lives of children and families in a number of Detroit communities. She was one of the driving forces behind the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, one of the most ambitious educational reform initiatives in Detroit’s history. Allen was also a champion of an initiative aimed at increasing youth employment, Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT). GDYT has evolved from offering just a few thousand jobs to a project that now includes hundreds of partners and co-investors and provides more than 8,000 jobs a year for young people ages 14 to 24.

Learn more about Tonya Allen and her inspiring story helping her hometown of Detroit here.

About the Nicholas P. Bollman Award

The Nicholas P. Bollman Award honors the memory of longtime friend and Funders’ Network co-founder, Nick Bollman, who died in 2007. The values that guided Nick’s life and his work, and his influence on others, personify the values and hopes of the Funders’ Network. We are proud to recognize leaders in the field who continue Nick’s legacy of advancing thoughtful and progressive solutions to a variety of contemporary problems.About the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities: The Funders’ Network works to inspire, strengthen and expand funding and philanthropic leadership that create environmentally sustainable, socially equitable and economically prosperous regions and communities. For more information, visit

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