Chicago native will lead Detroit's Skillman Foundation

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

The daughter of a white Jewish mother who taught public school and an African American father who became a police sergeant, Angelique Power says she grew up on the southside of Chicago with an awareness that she was part of those communities and outside them at the same time.

As Power rose through the ranks of nonprofits and philanthropy across the Midwest, including as president of the Field Foundation in Chicago, she saw herself as a stakeholder within the systems she worked for rather than an employee, building trust and listening to others with an eye toward justice.

Power will get to work in Detroit trying to build that trust this fall as the next president and CEO of the Detroit-based Skillman Foundation, starting Sept. 13. She said on Monday the past year has been transformative and the year ahead is even more important.

The Skillman Foundation on Monday, June 21, 2021 announced Angelique Power as its new president and CEO.

"There is something very unique about the Skillman Foundation, its approach to work and the role it plays," Powers said. "It leverages everything it has in service to kids. They have built trusted relationships. They have done trusted research."

"In this moment as we are emerging from pandemic – elevating young people voices and their vision of the future – it is calling me and compels me to bring myself and the family to join the work," Powers said of coming to Skillman and Detroit.

Power, 50, started her career in philanthropy with the Dayton Hudson Corporation, where she learned about corporate social responsibility and what effective civic engagement looks like in areas across the Midwest, including in Detroit.

She went on to lead community relations giving at the Target Corporation. In addition, she has served as director of community engagement and communications at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and as program director at the Joyce Foundation where her regional focus included funding in Detroit.

Power says she had a healthy dose of skepticism about philanthropy at the beginning of her career. Today she says she maintains that with a healthy dose of optimism.

"Philanthropy has often believed its own hype," she says. "Because there is a proximity to capital, that gets mistaken for expertise. What is critical to understand is the visionaries are the ones in the trenches doing this work every day. They have to be brought in as designers of their own density rather than beneficiaries of our benevolence."

Power succeeds Tonya Allen, who stepped down as Skillman president and CEO in February.

While the Skillman Foundation is most known for its work in K-12 education, it also has a long history of advancing equity, the afterschool system, youth employment, juvenile justice, neighborhood safety, parent supports and grassroots leadership.

Power, the former president of the Field Foundation in Chicago, says she will continue Skillman's work to advance an Opportunity Agenda for Detroit Children, which is about retooling systems to center child well-being, youth voice and leadership. 

"I am clear that education systems are the centrifugal force for outcomes for children and youth," Power said. "When these systems are equitable the possibilities are endless. When they are not entire societies suffer. The education focus is critical at this moment."

As president of the Field Foundation, Power doubled the grantmaking and staff size through partnerships locally and nationally, her staff said. Under her leadership, a socially responsible and racially equitable focus was added to that foundation's endowment.

Power co-founded Enrich Chicago, a nonprofit focused on anti-racism organizing, and Just Action, a group of 200 individuals and institutions focused on helping organizations make their racial equity statements from 2020 real. She has also led an interactive mapping project with 30 institutions focused on an equitable post-COVID recovery. 

Suzanne Shank, vice-chair for The Skillman Foundation who led the search committee for Allen's replacement, said selecting Power was a unanimous decision by the search committee and the board.

"She has a storied track record of building across constituencies locally, regionally, and nationally to achieve massive, community-led change," Shank, president and CEO of Siebert Williams Shank & Co., said. "Her experience and skills will build on The Skillman Foundation’s 60 years of impact, furthering racial equity and helping Detroit children be the authors of their own future."

Mary Kramer, board chair for The Skillman Foundation and vice president and director of special projects for Crain Communications, said as Detroit comes out of the pandemic, there’s a great need and opportunity to take new approaches to support children and help them lead a lifetime of success.

"Angelique Power comes to Detroit as a seasoned leader with fresh eyes. She is not dug in to approaches or affiliations, only what’s best for Detroit youth,” Kramer said.

The Skillman Foundation recently celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2020. Its founder, Rose Skillman, a fierce advocate for children, established the foundation with $60,000 for investments. As of December, the foundation has granted nearly $670 million in service of children.

Skillman initiatives include:

• The Good Neighborhoods Initiative, a $120 million effort to improve conditions for children in six targeted Detroit neighborhoods, where nearly one-third of the city's youth lived at the time: Brightmoor, Chadsey-Condon, Cody Rouge, Northend Central, Osborn and Southwest Detroit. The initiative increased graduation rates by 25%, youth programming by 40% and youth victimization rates declined by 47% in those designated neighborhoods from 2009 to 2016.

• The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, which advocated for $667 million for the Detroit Public Schools Community District, the return of an elected school board to the district and more charter school accountability.

• The creation and expansion of Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, which increased summer jobs for youth from 2,500 to 8,200 paid positions.

• The Detroit Children’s Fund, a nonprofit that has assembled civic leaders to make investments in schools and educators to ensure more Detroit children can receive a quality education.

• Launch Michigan, a statewide partnership of business, education, labor, philanthropy and civic leaders advocating for a high-quality, student-centered K-12 education system.

Power, her husband Sean, and their 11-year-old daughter Sadie Lousiane will relocate to Detroit later this summer.