Rising Stars Academy receives Impact100 Macomb grant

Center Line school for special-needs students plans expansion

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published November 1, 2019


MACOMB COUNTY — For the past six years, young adults with special needs have been developing their culinary arts skills and more at Rising Stars Academy in Center Line.

Founders Mark Prentiss and Debbie Prentiss opened the school in the fall of 2013. The academy is open to special-needs students ages 18-26 who leave high school with a certificate of completion.

Rising Stars Academy offers several programs. There’s an urban farm outside the school building and cooking classrooms inside, as well as an aquaponics system, a woodworking shop and an on-site café.

And thanks to a recent grant, the school will now have the opportunity to expand. During an Oct. 23 event at Freedom Hill Banquet Center in Sterling Heights, Impact100 Macomb awarded a $106,000 grant to the RSA Foundation.

“The grant came to the RSA Foundation to support Rising Stars Academy,” Debbie Prentiss said. “We are very, very blessed.”

The grant money will be used to create a retail space inside a classroom at the school. The new retail space will include a door that leads outside so the public can enter the building without having to walk through the school. The retail space will have items inside available for purchase.

“It will be to sell produce from our garden, baked goods, knitting items, arts and crafts, and eggs from our chickens,” Debbie Prentiss said. The school also has a commercial popcorn room, and the plan is to sell more of the salty treat as well.

The students at Rising Stars Academy have disabilities that range from cognitive impairments to autism. About 125 students from Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties are enrolled at the school. In addition to what they are learning at Rising Stars Academy, about 80-90 of them leave school each day to undergo job training in the community.

Nineteen students currently have part-time jobs. While many of them work in food service, there are a few students employed at local dentist offices and at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. The Prentisses’ have plans to open up — this spring — a bicycle repair shop inside a classroom and a plasma cutter manufacturing room in another classroom.

Impact100 Macomb is an organization comprised of women in Macomb County who provide grant money to local nonprofit groups. Each member donates $1,000 annually to fund the grants. Impact100 Macomb is currently in its second year.

“We are a group of volunteers,” board member Jennifer Kluge said. “We meet once a month to discuss issues. Everyone has their own area of expertise.”

Nonprofit organizations were able to apply to be considered to receive an Impact100 Macomb grant. Each organization went through a process to be considered for grant money.

One component included Impact100 Macomb members conducting on-site inspections with each group. The organizations also had to submit a plan as to what representatives would do with the money should they receive the grant. During the Oct. 23 event, each organization gave a five-minute presentation about their group.

“We have a nominating committee that scored and rated them,” Kluge said.

Impact100 Macomb members voted to select one recipient from the five finalists in five categories: education, family, arts and culture, environment and recreation, and health and wellness.

Rising Stars Academy was selected in the environment and recreation category. Other finalists in the running for the grant were Care House (education category), Rainbow Connection (family category), the Anton Art Center (arts and culture category) and Easter Seals (health and wellness category).

“It was emotional,” Kluge said. “It was tough. I wish we had more grants to give away. They were good quality nonprofits who were going to use the (grant money) efficiently.”

The number and amount of grants are determined each year by the number of women who join Impact100 as members, with each grant being a minimum of $100,000. This year, with 106 members, a $106,000 grant was awarded.

“That’s where the whole impact comes from,” Kluge said.

There are members in the group who split the $1,000 donation and pay $500 each.

Rising Stars Academy invites the public to its “fall showcase” from 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 7 at the school, 23855 Lawrence Ave. Each classroom will be set up with food from a different decade and an activity to go along with it. Tickets cost $20 per person and are available in the office, online or at the door.

For more information on Rising Stars Academy, visit rising-stars-academy.org. The school’s café is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays. Check the website for the menu.

For more information on Impact100 Macomb, visit impact 100macombcounty.org.