University of Michigan receives $5M gift to help disadvantaged youth in Detroit

Joan and Sanford Weill's Family Foundation donates gift to Ford School

Sanford and Joan Weill. (Courtesy: Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy)
Sanford and Joan Weill. (Courtesy: Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy)

ANN ARBOR – The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan has announced a new $5 million gift from Joan and Sanford Weill's Family Foundation to help boost education and introduce disadvantaged and underrepresented youth in Detroit to workforce opportunities.

The gift will be divided into two parts. A Youth Fund will be created with half of the money and will support collaborations with national nonprofit NAF, which bolsters public high school education to bring opportunities to underserved youth in Detroit and its surrounding areas.

The Youth Fund will support summer camps and activities that provide academic opportunities for NAF and other Detroit-area students in the fields of science and technology. Additionally, these programs will include internships, college readiness preparation, student support and research to give the students more access to educational resources.

The other half will be used to establish the Weill Scholars Fund, which will provide graduate students at the Ford School who come from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds with tuition support and stipends.

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"Joan and Sandy Weill are passionate about increasing access to education and good jobs for striving low-income students, a problem they've been working on for nearly 40 years," Michael Barr, dean of the Ford School of Public Policy, said in a statement. "I'm in awe of their commitment, hard work, creativity and generosity."

The Weills believe that paving the way for all young people to gain knowledge is imperative for making a lasting impact.

"We are excited that this agreement brings together one of the most prominent public institutions in the country with one of the most innovative leaders in public high school education—U-M and NAF—to tackle an important public policy issue of our time: educating and preparing the underrepresented to fill the jobs available in today's new economy," Joan and Sanford Weill said in a joint statement.

"We look forward to this partnership making a positive difference in the lives of many deserving students in Detroit and the surrounding communities, and supporting the future public policy leaders at the Ford School."

On U-M's campus, the initiatives will combine under the umbrella of the NAF Future Ready Scholars program, which will see collaborations across campus between Wolverine Pathways, the College of Engineering's Michigan Engineering Zone and the Youth Policy Lab at the Ford School and other stakeholders.

"Joan and Sandy Weill's gift to U-M is a testament to their commitment to preparing the next generation of leaders at all levels, particularly those who need the support most," Lisa Dughi, president of NAF, said in a statement. "We are also thankful to U-M for using this opportunity to provide transformative experiences for NAF and other students." 

About NAF
NAF works with more than 100,000 students in 617 career-themed academies including finance, hospitality and tourism, information technology, engineering and health sciences in 35 states across the U.S., the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. There are
 more than 20 NAF academies in Detroit.

Ninety-nine percent of NAF's students graduate, with 87% going on to postsecondary education—often as the first in their families to attend college. 

About Joan and Sanford Weill
The Weills were among the original signatories to The Giving Pledge in 2010, a commitment by the world's wealthiest individuals and families to donate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. Previously, the Weills, who have enjoyed a long friendship with President Gerald Ford and Betty Ford, have given to establish Weill Hall—home of the Ford School of Public Policy—and its deanship. 

Over the past four decades, the Weills have gifted more than $1 billion to educational, medical, cultural and arts institutions, most recently to Weill Cornell Medicine for debt-free medical education for students who qualify for financial need.

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