Helping Children and Families Succeed

Born in the heart of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Believe 2 Become is based on three guiding principles. First is the heartfelt belief that all people are born with God-given, unlimited potential to achieve and grow. Second is the understanding all children need to grow up with high expectations from a supportive community. Third is the knowledge that all children and youth deserve real opportunities to learn in a rigorous environment, explore the natural world, connect with role models, gain work experiences, and aspire to college or career success. Guided by rigorous research and a community-centered design process, Believe 2 Become is an asset shared and valued by dozens of community partners, stakeholders, and families in Greater Grand Rapids.


The work of Believe 2 Become is grounded in three groundbreaking strategies:

1. Provide actionable information to parents about their children’s development, learning style, school attendance, performance, credits, so they can take the steps they need to as parents. As education has evolved away from small neighborhood schools with close supportive communities, it has become more challenging for parents to learn from one another. Add barriers of language and culture, and it’s challenging for districts and schools to communicate effectively. B2B experience shows that by using technology in new creative ways, it’s possible to bridge information gaps and help parents do what they already want to do: parent effectively.

B2B programs providing actionable information include:

Baby Scholars, a series of home visits to help parents help their babies, toddlers, and preschoolers grow smarter.

Challenge 5, an innovative attendance challenge that combines five critical elements: a strategic framework based on quantified attendance goal (no more than five absences), robust data mining and analysis, integration of attendance and educator performance metrics, in-school competitions and incentives, and disruptive communication strategy.

Project LIFT, a school-to-parent texting service that lets parents know, in their native language, about their child’s missing assignments, grades, and attendance, allowing parents to intervene in a timely manner.

2. Offer parents expanded access to their children’s schools and teachers, and educational resources designed for them. In many urban districts and schools, parents are criticized for their lack of involvement at the same time they are systematically excluded from participating in their child’s education by a host of obstacles: language barriers, campus policies, transportation and schedule restrictions, and lack of communication. B2B experience shows that the more access parents have, the greater their engagement in the education system, and the greater their children’s chances for success.

B2B programs expanding access include:

Parent University, a combination of school-based and online classes, all accessible via

Opportunity Line, a call-for-help phone service designed to assist parents struggling with school challenges with advice, advocacy, and intervention delivered by Grand Rapids Urban League.

Parent Engagement, including Parent Essentials meetings, Parent Teacher Community Councils, plus parent volunteer, recognition and communication opportunities.

3. Extend enrichment opportunities to students and their parents. One of the realities of many urban neighborhoods is a shortage of future-focused opportunities that expose students to potential pathways to continued education and training, employment, careers, and prosperity. While many entities focus on the goal of high school graduation, statistics show that depending on demographics, the odds of a high school graduate securing full-time employment within four months of graduation are slim: from 5% (black men) to 26% (white men).1 By introducing students to potential career paths, and helping them develop all the skills they will need to succeed on those paths, it’s possible to move more students toward becoming self-sufficient contributors to our community.

B2B programs providing enrichment opportunities include:

Summer Learning Academies, a set of research-based summer programs that include credit recovery classes, field trips, campus visits, employment and career experiences, and more.

Imagine U, a comprehensive, strategic and scalable model for sustainable change that is comprised of four mutually reinforcing components: (1) research-based content that helps develop student agency, (2) a delivery system including a professional learning community, (3) an integration strategy to move content and practice into action and impact, (4) data mining that drives understanding of how youth are situated and their growth over time.

Imagine More, a community-wide campaign and information platform connecting students and their parents to potential career opportunities, higher education and job training, and local internships and employers.

1 Andrew Sum, Ishwar Khatiwada & Walter McHugh. The complete breakdown in the high school-to-work transition of young, non-college enrolled high school graduates in the U.S.: The need for an immediate national policy response. Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University, Boston MA, Oct. 2013

Important Insights

Believe 2 Become’s long-term commitment to Grand Rapids Public Schools has enabled the district to partner with expert local and national organizations to craft a major school transformation plan, establish a robust data tracking system, introduce a top-of-the-line student survey, implement a comprehensive model of teacher evaluation, develop a school administrator curriculum, and provide intensive support to low-performing schools.

These in-school efforts, in combination with the Believe 2 Become out-of-school opportunities (detailed as programs on this site), have contributed to improved academic outcomes for students in the district. The Opportunity Index shown below reveals significant growth in the percentage of Hope Zone students who are on track in two significant indicators—on-time high school graduation and college or career readiness. As an early warning system, the Opportunity Index allows educators to help students who are “off track” and “not ready” reverse course and become on track and ready for college and career.

Today, as Believe 2 Become expands to include school districts, charters, and private schools within a broader Greater Grand Rapids urban ecology, more students stand to benefit from the unique combination of in-school and out-of-school strategies designed to help them succeed.



Institute for Learning begins working with GRPS educators to influence classroom teaching and learning with research-based practices

Youth Violence Prevention initiative launches to support neighborhood families

Athletic academic expansion launches to bring learning-centered strategies to the field

Rigorous analysis reveals Hope Zone neighborhood opportunities for academic success strategies

A network of individuals and organizations joins forces to help more children achieve their potential

The “I Believe I Become” rallying cry is born, along with the Believe 2 Become identity

B2B launches Summer Learning Academy Community engagement begins with public gatherings in the Central Hope Zone

B2B Baby Scholars recruits its first cohort of families

Cambridge Education begins working with GRPS on the Teacher Effectiveness project

Tripod Survey of students and teachers is introduced to provide helpful feedback to GRPS teachers and principals on instructional practices

Community engagement deepens the strategy to include school-based parent meetings in the Hope Zones B2B premieres documentary film Helping Children Succeed featuring community leaders

GRPS publishes its first parent manual with Believe 2 Become messaging

Partners in School Innovation begins working with GRPS on a middle school turnaround project

With B2B support, GRPS launches its first attendance challenge

B2B and GRPS team up to launch the first Parent University in Michigan

Summer Learning Academy and Baby Scholars celebrate student and family achievements at Successfest, a collaboration of Believe 2 Become and GRPS Basis Policy Research begins working with GRPS to develop the Opportunity Index

The Project LIFT pilot shares student success data with select GRPS parents via text messages

ELO Network launches Imagine U to help students improve social-emotional learning and develop future orientation

Parent University launches online learning and credentialing opportunities for parents

GRPS increases efforts to reduce chronic absenteeism with Challenge 5, a districtwide attendance challenge

Project LIFT teams with Summer Learning Academy to share student success data with GRPS parents

Parent University adds an online course, “Helping Students Imagine Their Future,” with Dr. Ronald F. Ferguson of Harvard University

GRPS reports measurable improvements in attendance and reductions in chronic absenteeism

Imagine U emerges as a strong community-wide professional learning community committed to helping youth develop the mindsets, skills, future orientation, knowledge, and agency they will need for successful futures in the 21st century

The Imagine More campaign launches with its eye focused on the successful futures of young people and their families in West Michigan

Workforce Opportunity Report is published and distributed at public forums where leaders in education, workforce development, and captains of industry gathered to discuss solutions to bridge the school to career opportunity gap faced by so many high school graduates