A group of American youth who are working to eradicate poverty and blight in Pontiac, Michigan, have joined forces with Human Cities initiative of Dutch industrial giant AkzoNobel in order to further revitalize the city and help make people’s lives more liveable and inspiring.
Established by a group of high school students in 2014, Leaders of the Future is a growing organization which has adopted a hands-on approach to reinvigorating the Pontiac area. Their work has now been recognized through a partnership with AkzoNobel, which includes the award of a $100,000 Human Cities grant.
The funding – which underlines the company’s global commitment to improving, energizing and regenerating urban communities across the world – will be made available over the next two years. Half the amount will support various sustainability-themed community projects that Leaders of the Future will activate in Pontiac, and half will be used to establish a higher education scholarship fund supporting the educational ambitions of the group’s membership.
“AkzoNobel can trace its origins in Pontiac back to 1902 and, as a company that’s proud of this heritage, we were impressed by the sustainable approach Leaders of the Future has introduced to revitalize the city,” said Johan Landfors, President of AkzoNobel North America. “The grant will help to expand the good work they do, while our scholarship program will give their members the opportunity to enter higher education and provide a springboard to what I’m sure will be very successful careers.”
Added US Senator Gary Peters: “Empowering the next generation of young people to take action helps build lifelong leadership skills and creates stronger communities. I congratulate Leaders of the Future on this grant, supporting their mission to strengthen and revitalize Pontiac, and I look forward to seeing all they accomplish as they work to help the City of Pontiac thrive. I also thank AkzoNobel for their dedication to supporting the Pontiac community and the next generation of Michigan leaders.”
Commenting on the partnership, Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman, said: “I am very proud of the contributions made by the Leaders of the Future and I commend AkzoNobel for supporting the mission and community focus of this exciting grassroots effort.”
Leaders of the Future was founded by Anders Engnell and three of his high school friends. Over the last three years, with limited resources, they have completed a number of community projects, including house renovations and parks clean-up and restoration work. The group has also provided training and developed the business and leadership skills of young people in Pontiac.
“We at the Leaders of the Future are immensely excited to launch projects with greater sustainability and community impact thanks to AkzoNobel’s generous donation,” said Engnell. “For example, our first project in 2017 will be an orchard and apiary that we’ll design and install on a set of two lots on the southwest side of Pontiac. Alongside AkzoNobel volunteers from the Pontiac site, we’ll also plant peach, apple and cherry trees and place beehives for the community to care for and enjoy.”
Engnell encountered more than a few detractors when he was trying to launch Leaders of the Future. here’s what he had to say about that experience: “They will tell you there is no way for an inner city to be redeveloped by youth…they will tell you that they’d be fighting for a pipe dream in a city where pipes burst and dreams are deferred. But we prove otherwise.”
AkzoNobel employs nearly 5,000 people across 45 sites in North America, with its regional headquarters in Chicago. At its Pontiac and Troy, Michigan, sites, the company employs more than 300 people supporting customers in the automotive industry.
AkzoNobel creates everyday essentials to make people’s lives more liveable and inspiring. As a leading global paints and coatings company and a major producer of specialty chemicals, we supply essential ingredients, essential protection and essential color to industries and consumers worldwide. Backed by a pioneering heritage, our innovative products and sustainable technologies are designed to meet the growing demands of our fast-changing planet, while making life easier. Headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, we have approximately 45,000 people in around 80 countries, while our portfolio includes well-known brands such as Dulux, Sikkens, International, Interpon and Eka. Consistently ranked as a leader in sustainability, we are dedicated to energizing cities and communities while creating a protected, colorful world where life is improved by what we do.
About Human Cities
AkzoNobel’s Human Cities initiative is an active expression of our company purpose to create everyday essentials to make people’s lives more liveable and inspiring. It’s everything we do for and with society and is our commitment to improving, energizing and regenerating urban communities across the world. The initiative has helped to revitalize favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as well as creating jobs for young people in the UK. It is also making sport more accessible to young people and helping to restore historic landmarks, such as Burkill Hall in Singapore and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.