An unwavering commitment to children, creating a family-friendly community and creating new opportunities for high school students were among the qualities cited by the region’s board members in their selection of retiring Mayor George Heartwell as recipient of the 2015 Education Advocacy Award.
“Mayor Heartwell has brought the voice of young people to community leaders during his term in office by providing a wide array of student leadership and community involvement activities,” said Jim Turner, president of the Kent Intermediate Association of School Boards.
Heartwell will retire this year as mayor of Grand Rapids at the end of a 12-year tenure that marked dramatic growth and investment. He received the awardat the school board association’s fall dinner on Oct. 8.
Heartwell serves on the National League of Cities Institute of Youth, Education, & Families Education Reform Committee and shapes policy discussion with mayors from across the country. He was instrumental in creating the Office of Children, Youth and Families, now called Our Community’s Children, a public-private partnership of the City of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Public Schools. The office advocates for the needs of city children and youth and drives system-wide change to better prepare young people for college, work and life. Heartwell also launched the regional “To College, Through College” initiative to identify and eliminate barriers to college enrollment and success.
The Kent Intermediate Association of School Boards is an organization of board members directing the 20 public schools within Kent ISD. The Education Advocacy Award was created in 2004 to recognize those who created better conditions for children, improved student achievement and initiated collaborative programs that encourage student success.