Introducing The Skillman Visionary Awards

Launching the Skillman Visionary Awards

Today, The Skillman Foundation launches the Skillman Visionary Awards program to recognize Detroit education changemakers.

This award program underscores the Foundation’s commitment to recognizing and supporting visionary leaders who are transforming the education system to better prepare students to navigate and shape the future.

Through the Skillman Visionary Awards program, the Foundation will provide $50,000 unrestricted awards to individuals who are reimagining Detroit’s education system in innovative, community-informed, and collaborative ways. Awardees represent a span of generations and roles, including education changemakers working in school districts, youth programs, community organizing, and policy advocacy.

The 10 awardees selected for the award’s inaugural class are:

Juanita Zuniga, Lead Organizer, 482Forward

Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent, Detroit Public Schools Community District

Rev. Larry Simmons, Sr., Executive Director, Brightmoor Alliance

Sherisse Butler, Senior Vice President and Executive Director, City Year Detroit

Marisol Bien Teachworth Walton, Co-Lead, Detroit Summer; Director of Youth Development,DHDC

Dawn Wilson-Clark, Parent Organizer, Jonathon and Dawn Clark Health & Healing Center

Jenell Mansfield, Political & Legislative Coordinator, American Federation of Teachers-Michigan

Jerjuan Howard, Founder, Umoja Debate League

Silver Moore, Humanities Instructional Coach, University Prep Schools; Founder, Classroom Clapback

Dr. Sirrita Darby, Founder, Detroit Heals Detroit

“Detroit is a place of visionaries who are working to innovatively transform our education system,” said Angelique Power, president & CEO of The Skillman’s Foundation. “The Skillman Visionary Awards shines a light on these stars. We want them to know that we see them; they are making a difference, and we need them to keep going. It is going to take all of us, from grassroots to grasstops, to modernize the education system.

The Skillman Visionary Awards program is rooted in several key aims that are integral to the Foundation’s mission and People Powered Education strategy:

Uplift the visionary education change happening in Detroit. People working across Detroit’s education system are leading innovations that are focused on what’s possible and needed for students—but too often, their work goes unseen.

Expand who has a voice in policymaking. People with firsthand experience in the education system have the insights and ideas needed to improve it. The Skillman Foundation’s People Powered Education strategy invests in the policy advocacy of Detroiters and statewide organizations and coalitions who advocate for their interests. It strives to build connections between grassroots and grasstops education advocates to build a shared vision for education where all partner for students’ success.

Elevate visionaries’ stories. Through storytelling and platform usage, the program will amplify the voices and experiences of awardees, inspiring others and fostering collaboration within the community.

Expand our philanthropic tools. The Skillman Visionary Awards represent a strategic expansion of the Foundation’s philanthropic toolkit, allowing for direct support of individuals driving impactful change in education.

“These awards not only celebrate past achievements but also serve as an investment in the future of education in Detroit,” added Power. “By recognizing their achievements and providing unrestricted support, we hope to catalyze further innovation and progress in education across our city.”

For more information and updates, please visit

About the Skillman Visionary Awards

The Skillman Visionary Awards celebrate individuals who have dedicated themselves to nurturing the brilliance of Detroit’s youth through a transformation of the education system into a more equitable model for all. Each year, up to 10 education changemakers will be selected, representing a mix of educators, organizers, policy movers, and other essential leaders working across Detroit’s education ecosystem. Through this award, The Skillman Foundation celebrates their passion, rewards their work, and supports the future they are building.

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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