Kaufman Interfaith Leadership Scholars

The Kaufman Interfaith Institute is in our fifth year of the Interfaith Leadership Scholars program. In this program, students develop their leadership skills, learn about interfaith cooperation, and work to create a more inclusive community. Students meet approximately two times a month on Sundays from 3-5pm at the GVSU Health Campus in Downtown Grand Rapids. They experience college-level trainings, discussions and interactive activities led by DEI and Interfaith leaders. After a foundation of leadership skills, trainings on inclusion and equity and team building during the first semester, students spend the second half the school year working on a student-led and student-driven project of their choice which impacts the community.

Students from 8th-12th grade are welcome to apply each year. Prior interfaith experience is not necessary but a commitment to attending the program is most important. We welcome all students of any spiritual, secular or religious background.

For more info, please reach out to Zahabia Ahmed-Usmani. To sign up for the 2024-2025 Scholars cohort, please fill out this form.

Kaufman Scholars bowling event

Who Are the Kaufman Interfaith Leadership Scholars?

Teenagers from the greater Grand Rapids area who provide invaluable leadership, input and direction for the Kaufman Interfaith Institute while gaining greater cross-cultural and interfaith knowledge.

They are the future of interfaith in West Michigan!


Kaufman Scholars 2023-2024 group shot
Kaufman scholars cooking together

What will they do?

The Scholars are working on two projects:

  • Addressing Eurocentrism across curriculum in general with a presentation and learning guide for teachers. 
  • Incorporating youth voices into World Religions/Histories curricula by recording youth reflections on how they practice and experience their tradition. 
Scholars hanging out
Scholars Gurdwara event

How Will They do it?

● Trainings- Implicit Bias, Influencer (Social Media), Strengths/Skills assessments, presentation skills, story-telling workshops

● Deepening Networks- Interactions with our community partners, service opportunities

● Lessons and best practices - provided by college professors and experts in their field.

Kaufman Scholars at work
Two Scholars chatting

● Coaching and guidance - Geared toward exploring each scholars own passions and interests

● Influencing Kaufman Programs- In addition to personal growth the Leadership Scholars will serve as an advisory council to Kaufman Interfaith Institute and help to guide the Institute forward into the future.

Check out the community initiatives created by our Scholars!

Kaufman scholars go bowling
Scholars working on LEGO at a meeting
Scholars eating together
Kaufman scholars working on a project together

Hear From The Scholars

The Take With Krishna Mano on Gun Violence

Check out scholar Krishna Mano's youtube series, "The Take with Krishna Mano." where he tackles current issues and interviews people working to better our community, including Senator Debbie Stabenow. 

“When we learned about the Trail of Tears, we learned about the Native American experience from the perspective of atrocities they experienced rather than the flourishing culture they represent.”

---Emlynn Merrill

Page last modified May 31, 2024