Lifelong Achievement Award recipient partners with Flint Community Education

On February 7, 2020, Ms. Jeanette Edwards received the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award at the 25th Annual Children's Champion Breakfast Awards! Flint Community Education team member Jennifer Halliday was proud to have nominated Ms. Edwards for the award. Jennifer met Ms. Edwards as an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving the Flint Community Education Initiative (Flint CEI) in its pilot year. In 2015, Ms. Edwards was one of the first community members to partner with Flint CEI to create the Brownell and Holmes Neighborhood Association. Within Flint CEI’s first year, Ms. Edward was an early champion of the work. She supported the first Community Education monthly partner meetings, she joined Holmes Community Training program and walked her first Crim 5k that August. Included below is Jennifer’s nomination of Ms. Jeanette Edwards. Join the Crim in celebrating Ms. Edwards!

You can find Jeanette Edwards organizing a clean-up for Brownell and Holmes STEM Academy, leading community meetings focused on the north end of Flint, and at every school function for students enrolled in Brownell STEM (K-2), Holmes STEM (3-6), and now Flint JR. High (7-8). Ms. Edwards, although not a parent to any students currently enrolled in Flint Community Schools, serves as a grandparent to every child living in the north end of Flint. She works tirelessly to ensure north Flint kids have safe neighborhoods to live in, strong schools to learn in, and a fun community to play in. Ms. Edwards is critical to the successes you see in the north end of Flint. For every great news article of new things happening in the north end, Ms. Edwards was most likely on the planning committee for that activity. She has been deemed "mayor" of the Bornwell and Holmes neighborhood by some of her friends, because she knows everyone in the neighborhood.

Jeanette Edwards, a life-long resident of Flint, has dedicated her life to making her neighborhood in Flint's North End a safe and happy place for children to grow up. In her 18 years as a paraprofessional within Flint Community Schools Jeanette supported vulnerable children with special needs. In retirement, Jeanette advocates for students with physical and cognitive differences through ensuring they have equal access to academic and out of school activities. Ms. Edwards worked with the Crim Fitness Foundation to create an alternative "field day" for students at Brownell and Holmes STEM Academy. As a grandparent to a child with physical disabilities, Jeanette understands that often field day activities cannot accommodate the needs of those students with different abilities. Jeanette spearheaded the community campaign for the "Championship of Excellence." This field day like event offered students a wide range of activities. Jeanette brought in over 30 volunteers to support students in utilizing a bounce house. Many times students who are limited in their physical abilities are unable to safely use bounce houses because the large number of students in the bounce house. At the "Championship of Excellence" students could use the bounce house on their own or with a limited number of other students. Parents were invited to take part in the event with their student as well. Edwards has been able to leverage additional dollars to provide this event on an on-going basis at Holmes, Brownell, and Flint JR. High.

Ms. Edwards also worked tirelessly to advocate for a safer community for her kids, meaning all kids in the neighborhood. In 2014, Ms. Edwards formed the Brownell-Holmes Neighborhood Association. Through the block club, she has been able to bring in additional funding to support the restoration of the neighborhood. She spearheaded a pocket-park with a community library across from Holmes STEM Academy. The pocket-park hosts events focused on healing the wounds of the neighborhood inflicted by violence and racial inequities. She advocated for Federal dollars through Safe Routes to School to increase wheelchair accessibility throughout the neighborhood. She has also worked with the MTA to relocate a bus stop to a safer location for students attending Flint JR. High (Northwestern). She has been a critical driving force in the North End Crime Reduction project "Illuminating Community Change" which is funded by the Department of Justice. In this work, Ms. Edwards supports ensuring that grant dollars are serving Flint’s most vulnerable population, its children. She has worked to ensure student voice is heard throughout the process. What is so remarkable about Ms. Edwards? She not only actively pursues equity for all children, but she gets the entire neighborhood on board! When Ms. Edwards wants a better outcome for her kids (all north end of Flint kids), she activates the neighborhood.

The true power of Ms. Edwards is best described by the following. One day I was at Holmes STEM Academy when a parent came into the Community Education office to let the Community School Director know their child did not get off the bus after school. The Community School Director called the principal per procedure, and I called Ms. Edwards. Within 3 minutes, Ms. Edwards drove up to the school and she already had her neighborhood on watch for the student. Within 30 minutes we located the child. Through Ms. Edwards leadership, the neighborhood has come together to make children's safety the priority. Ms. Edwards is able to activate her neighborhood to ensure students are safe- no matter the time of day.

Jeanette Edwards is truly a champion of children- everyday. She believes in the power of education and believes every student can meet their goals.