Benjamin Oliver

December 2017 KSSN Spotlight

For the month of December, we are proud to shine a bright spotlight on community partner, Benjamin Oliver. Ben has been with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation for 4.5 years as the Challenge Scholars Advisor.

Challenge Scholars, a collaborative and innovative initiative, makes postsecondary education more accessible for first generation, low-income students. As the Challenge Scholars Advisor, Ben is the main liaison and partnership strategist between the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Westside schools--Sibley Elementary, Stocking Elementary, Harrison Park, Westwood Middle School, Union High School--and the participating Westside community. According to Ben, “Basically, I help enhance the effectiveness of Challenge Scholars through partnerships and engagement, which will help more kids go to, and complete, college.”

When asked what he loves about his work, Ben says it is the constant inspiration he draws from the Westside students, their families, school staff, and community members. “So many hands coming together, sometimes behind the scenes, working on this long-term ‘project’ of helping our next generation of homegrown GRPS talent have opportunities to thrive here.” Ben says Challenge Scholars has been a “rallying call” to the community to come together in new ways to address the inequities in educational outcomes among our students, particularly students of color, attending our public schools. “Beyond making college more affordable by offering a scholarship, I think we owe it to our students to support them throughout their journey of self-discovery and determination. Though I think this is our collective obligation, it is also a win-win for all of us. By investing in our leaders of tomorrow, we safeguard a better future for ourselves.”

When Ben is not busy with his work on the Westside, you can find him engaging in his many pastimes. He loves soccer, meditation, cooking, reading, strategy games, and spending time in nature. He also enjoys traveling to new places and trying new things.

We thank you, Ben, for all that you do for the Westside and for our greater community. You are a true agent of change and champion of equity and inclusion. You have already impacted the lives of countless families and community partners, and we look forward to seeing all the great work you will continue to do in the future!

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