Knight Foundation Begins Initiative at Simon Perkins Middle School

AKRON– The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced on Wednesday the launch of a $1.25 million initial investment in Simon Perkins Middle School in Akron.

The initiative, called Perkins Activities Central, will provide Perkins students with positive activities during out-of-school time: after school, weekends, and summer vacation. In a 2002 Knight Foundation survey of Akron residents, some 63 percent identified positive programs for youth as a significant community need.

The first Perkins Activities Central programs funded by the Knight Foundation have begun, and more will be offered over the summer vacation. Program grants include:

  • A Cultural Exchange: $250,000 for Read, Baby, Read!, a book club that encourages young people to read for leisure.
  • Akron Child Guidance Centers: $54,900 for the Perkins Wellness Group for Girls, an after-school program to support girls in making positive physical, emotional, and academic choices.
  • Family Services of Summit County: $236,600 for the FAST (Families and Schools Together) evening program that helps families work with each other and the school to promote school success.
  • National Inventors Hall of Fame: $91,700 for Club Invention and Camp Invention, science and creativity programs available after school and during the summer.
  • The First Tee of Akron: $30,000 for Perkins students to participate in The First Tee of Akron, a program that teaches golf skills and life skills to young people who might otherwise not have had the opportunity to learn golf.
  • University of Akron: $345,200 for an inquiry-based math and science program offered after school and in the summer to incoming sixth graders.
  • Akron Public Schools: $250,000 for a project coordinator based at Simon Perkins Middle School.

The Knight Foundation is no stranger to major investments in Akron, which is the hometown of its founders, John S. and James L. Knight. The Knight Foundation has invested more than $47 million in Akron since 1950. Two years ago, the Foundation reaffirmed its commitment to Akron and adopted a new mission: to focus tightly on locally identified priorities in its 26 communities. The Knight Foundation Akron Community Advisory Committee — chaired by Akron Beacon Journal President and Publisher Jim Crutchfield — was born and began to examine Akron’s greatest needs.

The group concluded that the foundation could have a significant effect by working to improve programs for middle school youth. Its other primary focus is stimulating economic development in the Northeast Ohio region. The Foundation expects to invest $12.6 million over the next five years in its two Akron giving priorities.

“The advisory committee considered carefully its opportunities for investing in middle school youth,” said Vivian Celeste Neal, Knight’s community liaison program officer in Akron. “Simon Perkins Middle School is a school in need, but also a school with great potential. We’re pleased to partner with Perkins’ staff and parents to help these students succeed.”

For its part, the Akron Public Schools recognizes that the Knight funding is an investment, not a gift. “To continue funding, the Knight Foundation needs to see success,” said Akron Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sylvester Small. “We pledge to do our part by getting parents and community members involved at Perkins Middle School. When these students succeed, our entire district succeeds.”

One advantage of the community-based giving approach is that the Knight Foundation’s investments can leverage earlier investments made by community residents. Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, long a champion of the schools and their funding needs, remarked, “Citizens and parents have invested a good deal in  Akron’s public schools and welcome this partnership. We are grateful for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s $13 million commitment to Akron; we thank the foundation and its Community Advisory Committee for being responsive to our community needs.”

For more information on Perkins Activities Central, please call or email Carla Sibley, program coordinator, at 330-761-3297 or [email protected].

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.