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Policy & Systems

Kendra Howard to lead education policy grantmaking 

Kendra Howard, The Skillman Foundation’s new director of policy & systems

With an increased focus on education policy and systems, The Skillman Foundation has hired Kendra Howard for a new role of director of policy & systems.     

The search began in late 2022 when the Foundation launched a new organizational framework to guide our grantmaking and changemaking efforts on behalf of Detroit youth. The framework is on focused on two pillars: Ground Building – supporting the efforts of Detroit youth, educators, and community to influence the redesign of education; and Policy & Systems – supporting the cultivation of an education policy ecosystem that is responsive to the needs and solutions brought forth by students and educators.  

Kendra has a comprehensive background in public policy. She has played instrumental roles in successful political campaigns, advocacy efforts, and in the crafting of effective legislation.  

A second-generation Lansing native, Kendra served as a senior legislative analyst at the Michigan House of Representatives for nearly a decade. She has also spent time working in Detroit with government officials and community groups. Kendra was tapped as Mayor Dave Bing’s co-policy director for his first campaign, then transitioned in his administration as an appointee. She was also employed with the workforce development think tank Corporation for a Skilled Workforce where she was instrumental in the development of a 150-organization workforce development alliance to help chronically unemployed and under-employed Detroiters.  
Immediately prior to joining The Skillman Foundation, Kendra was employed at Guidehouse, a management consulting firm, where she assisted in the Emergency Rental Assistance Program for Wayne County. 

“As a child, Kendra was known in her neighborhood from knocking on neighbors’ doors to talk about community issues and initiatives. She took that powerful community know-how into the hallowed halls of the public sector to ensure community voice leads to policy change. In this way she embodies our new grantmaking strategy,” said Skillman Foundation President & CEO Angelique Power. “We’re thrilled to have Kendra join our team to catalyze new voices, new solutions, and new systems for the Detroit of our dreams”. 

“The imperative to reinvent Michigan’s education system into one that meets the needs of all children and meets the realities of a changing world and workplace has never been more clear. We spent the past year asking young people, educators, youth providers, and Detroiters at-large, ‘How can The Skillman Foundation do more?’ The key thing we heard was that patches to an antiquated system don’t hold. Bold, system-level change is needed,” said Punita Dani Thurman, Vice President of Program & Strategy for The Skillman Foundation. “We’re excited to have Kendra’s expertise as we strive toward education policy and systems changes that fuel the brilliance of Detroit youth.”  

Rounding out the Policy & Systems team is Terry Whitfield, partnership manager. Terry, whose background is in community organizing and youth development, joined the Foundation in 2017. Last month, Terry embarked on a learning challenge to understand the landscape of education policy in Detroit and Michigan. Follow Terry’s 100 Conversations in 100 Days on Instagram

Curious about our other team members? See our full team

The Skillman Foundation

The Skillman Foundation is a grantmaking organization established in 1960 by Rose Skillman. We have granted out more than $730 million and have served as a vocal advocate to strengthen K-12 education, afterschool programming, child-centered neighborhoods, youth and community leadership, and racial equity and justice.

We are in the process of developing a new strategic framework, co-designed with Detroit youth and their champions.

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