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The Henry Ford Innovation Project
https://www.theinnovationproject.org/

Amplifying Accessibility

Students from Schulze Academy for Technology and Arts | Photo by KMS PHOTOGRAPHY

Amplifying Accessbility

The Henry Ford is on a mission to activate innovation through educational equity

No innovator left behind. No entrepreneur excluded. The Henry Ford has a long-standing focus on inclusiveness, with the goal of making its experiences, artifacts and learning environments available to everyone — especially those who traditionally have been left behind. The Henry Ford’s Youth Mentorship Program (YMP), for example, has been offering at-risk teens the opportunity to develop life and work skills on-site at The Henry Ford for nearly three decades. The Henry Ford’s Community Outreach Program — which makes the institution’s collections and educational experiences more accessible to resource-challenged families, at-risk youth, kids fighting cancer and victims of violence — has been working with local organizations for a dozen years. More recently, The Henry Ford has implemented highly successful sensory-friendly programming and tactile tours, making its campus accessible to even more individuals and families.

The Henry Ford still wants to do more, and will do more as part of The Innovation Project, where plans already exist to create new accessible environments on campus, expand existing programs to be more accessible and relevant to a broader audience, and renovate facilities to accommodate individuals with a range of abilities as well as their family members and companions.

Efforts to open The Henry Ford’s physical and digital doors to everyone, barrier-free, continue to rise in number and scope, thanks in great part to generous donor support. Recent examples of how The Henry Ford and its donor family have been able to advance the institution’s inclusiveness include a three-year partnership with PNC Bank and PNC Foundation for early childhood programming, and support from the Applebaum Family Compass Fund in connection with YMP.

PNC Tinkering for Tots

On the second Monday of every month, preschoolers come to The Henry Ford to get hands-on. Artifacts in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village are the gateway to these preschoolers learning pre-engineering skills. They hear inspiring stories; go on scavenger hunts for artifacts; compare, combine and contrast materials to make tools and crafts; and conduct experiments that incorporate science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Many of the preschoolers participating in these hands-on Mondays are here through complimentary field trips, allowing them to experience the campus that might not be accessible to them otherwise for varying reasons. It’s all part of the new Tinkering for Tots early childhood programming made possible with the support and extended sponsorship of PNC Bank and PNC Foundation. 

“Henry Ford believed in the power of real artifacts in an environment that provided hands-on learning,” said Patricia E. Mooradian, president and CEO of The Henry Ford. “With partners such as PNC Bank and PNC Foundation, we can continue Henry’s vision and offer vital STEM- and STEAM-based programs that can unlock creativity in young minds and unleash an enormous amount of potential to change the world.”

In addition to all the on-site activities at Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village, Tinkering for Tots includes how-to guides for parents, caregivers and educators for continued engagement. “I think it’s all about spurring the imagination,” said Ric DeVore, PNC regional president for Detroit and southeast Michigan. “If we can provide accessibility to children that would not typically have that access — I’m sure somewhere you’ll find a future engineer, a future scientist. If you get involved early in a child’s life, you can really make a noticeable difference.”

DID YOU KNOW?

In addition to the sponsorship by PNC Bank, PNC Foundation has committed thousands of dollars to fund involvement in PNC Tinkering for Tots and field trips to The Henry Ford for 28 Detroit Public Schools preschool classes as part of PNC Grow Up Great®, a multimillion-dollar, multiyear, bilingual initiative in early childhood education to primarily help underserved children succeed in school and life.

Applebaum Senior Scholars

High school senior Edward Stokes was thrilled when, as a participant in The Henry Ford’s YMP for the 2017-18 school year, he had the opportunity to tour Schoolcraft College. Not only was Stokes interested in the college’s culinary program, he had applied to attend it and had been recently accepted, giving him a unique inside look at his future in the making. Likewise, fellow YMP senior Shawn West was able to take a tour of Eastern Michigan University’s campus, envisioning his continued education and future on a more personal, direct level.

“I never really pictured myself on a college campus before,” said West. “But after touring one, I really feel like I could see myself here one day.”

Stokes and West, now graduates of YMP, are two of the high school seniors who had the unique opportunity to participate in the inaugural Applebaum Senior Scholars Program, an extra series of enrichment and skill development activities designed to provide a successful path toward graduation and future achievement as part of YMP. Funded by a generous grant from the entrepreneurial-focused Applebaum Family Compass Fund, the program helps students learn résumé-building skills, teaches them how to prepare for a job interview, provides college tours and connects them with career role models.

“Many of the students in YMP have never been on a college campus before, so being able to provide them with the experience is eye-opening and inspiring,” said Emily Koch, director of YMP at The Henry Ford.

Seniors in YMP’s fall 2017 semester were the first group to be immersed in the scholars program, participating in the college tours at Eastern Michigan University and Schoolcraft College, institutions they were interested in and that some had applied to attend. Students also took part in a two-day workshop hosted by Employment BOOST to learn résumé-writing and interview skills and to engage with several career guest speakers, including a registered nurse.

“The incredibly generous support from the Applebaum Family Compass Fund has increased our ability to provide our students with the tools, knowledge and skills needed for the transition of life after high school and for becoming good citizens within their community,” said Koch, who, through the scholars program, can also identify students in need of emergency financial assistance, professional clothing and basic technology, including laptops loaded with the software they need to succeed in college. “Adding experiences such as college tours and the opportunity for our students to connect with individuals in the field of their career interests has really been inspiring to watch. You can almost see the light bulbs turn on in their minds. It’s really amazing!”

DID YOU KNOW?

Support from the Applebaum Family Compass Fund has significantly enhanced the services and resources made available to The Henry Ford’s YMP students, especially the Applebaum Senior Scholars. Student performance September 2017 through June 2018 shows it, with 45 percent of those enrolled in YMP improving their grades and 100 percent of participants expecting to graduate from high school — up from 76 percent at the beginning of the school year.

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