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School of Education professor receives award for bringing quality education to vulnerable children

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Dr. Nkechy Ezeh, associate professor in the School of Education at Aquinas College, will receive the Grand Rapids Community College 2020 Distinguished Alumna award, the highest honor bestowed on an alumnus from the community college. She is receiving the award in recognition of her work to bring quality care and education to vulnerable children and to promote parental engagement through education, modeling and coaching.

GRCC will the present the award during its commencement ceremony this summer.

Ezeh, who is also the director of Aquinas College’s Early Childhood Education program, draws upon perspectives she gained through her direct involvement in the community. As a former early care and education teacher, she spent many days in the classroom, specifically with vulnerable children, gaining valuable insight on the practical implementation of educational theory. 

“I saw firsthand how much impact poverty can have on the early development of children,” Ezeh told GRCC. “It also became very clear to me that parents all want to do their best for their children, but sometimes the reality of life circumstances gets in the way…I decided to get as much education as possible so that someday God would use me as an instrument to do something that would ultimately make a difference for families struggling against the effects of poverty.”

Ezeh has served as an adult and parent educator, not only teaching parents but also listening and learning from those who can best describe what life is like for low-income families. 

Ezeh has assisted several schools and non-profit agencies as an early childhood education consultant, providing curriculum and evaluation expertise. She also conducts professional development and parent education workshops around the U.S. and internationally.

In addition to her work at Aquinas, Ezeh was a Fellow with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to conduct current reality research on children living in the core city of Grand Rapids.

She is also the Founder and CEO of the award-winning Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, which plans and designs an intentional preschool service system aimed at providing, expanding and sustaining the capacity of high-quality early care and education programs in the vulnerable neighborhoods of Grand Rapids.

Through that collaborative she developed Empowering Parents Impacting Children, a unique dual-generational approach to early childhood education that provides support, through the services of a Family Coach, to families as they identify and address barriers preventing them from meeting their basic needs. 

Ezeh has been recognized many times for her work over the years, including West Michigan Woman of the Year (2018), Grand Rapids Business Journal 50 Most Influential Women (2018) and YWCA Tribute Honoree – Advocacy (2016).