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SAC was established in 1975 to focus on the educational experience of students; to identify successful practices and policies as well as the barriers to effective service.

Historic Articles on the Ann Arbor District Library’s Old News site. More articles can be found here:


Historic Timeline

 1975, SAC Established
A group of citizens came together assure that public schools would serve all children.

“The children who most need excellent educational services are, in fact, receiving the least.”  Albert and Emma Wheeler

1977-79,  MLK Elementary School Children v. AAPS
SAC collaborated with Michigan Legal Services to bring this federal lawsuit asserting AAPS violated federal law because it failed to consider the home language of children. The court ordered AAPS to identify “Black English” speakers and to “use that knowledge in teaching…standard English.”   This remains our only formal legal action.

Late 1970s, Corporal Punishment
Margaret Sayles Harner works with SAC founder Ruth Zweifler on a legislative task force to end corporal punishment in schools. Harner joins Zweifler as a volunteer to expand the SAC’s work beyond AAPS.

Volunteers do a variety of work, including publishing a guide to student rights and serve as a watchdog, raising issues locally and nationally about the lack of equitable education for students of color. Even in 1985, SAC was calling out the disproportionate number of students of color being suspended. SAC’s individual casework focused on keeping students in school. Special education advocacy, as well as advocacy for court-involved youth (who were denied an education), were key components, as well. SAC was also part of a national network of advocacy organizations trying to push equity issues to the top of the national policy agenda.

1988, Restructuring
SAC moves from a local organization to a statewide one with a broader concern for systemic issues related to public schools.

1988-1995, The Fourth ‘R’ Rights of Students, is created and distributed in Arabic, English and Spanish.

1992, Court-Involved Youth
Margaret Harner becomes Project Director for this Ford Foundation program.

1999, Project SOAR
In conjunction with Washtenaw Community College, Student Opportunities and Alternative Resources project places children excluded from public school systems in alternative placements, most notably at WCC.  Placements delivered a message of respect and encouragement to children barred from their community.

2001, Active Voices of Youth
Funded by Kellogg Foundation, this project enabled SAC to travel to youth in schools in communities such as Detroit, Benzie, Monroe and Washtenaw counties to hear from the students themselves — both those who were successful in school and those who struggled – about what makes school work best.

2001, Fire
Devastating arson at United Way Building.  SAC’s offices in the building were severely damaged and many archival materials were lost.

2004, Leadership Changes
Ruth Zweifler retires as Executive Director.  Leslie Harrington is welcomed as new Executive Director.

2005, Nowhere to Go – The devastating journey of youth expelled from Michigan schools is published by future Executive Director Peri Stone-Palmquist, who conducted the research as a graduate student in collaboration with SAC.

2006-2012, Family Support
Received a Children’s Trust Fund grant to provide more extensive parenting support to the families we were helping. This work was expanded with a state Proud Fathers grant in 2009.

2007, Child Abuse Prevention:
Received first state of Michigan child abuse prevention grant (CHPR) and in 2008 received a Washtenaw County Department of Human Services grant for child abuse prevention (CAN).

2011, Expansion
Opened office in Jackson to strengthen families involved in Child Protective Services (Families Together Building Solutions).

2012, Staff Changes
Leslie Harrington steps down and Peri Stone-Palmquist starts as new Executive Director. Margaret Harner retires.

2012, Dropout Prevention
SAC receives funding to pilot a nationally-known, evidence-based dropout prevention model called Check and Connect.

2013, Jackson Expansion, Fee-Based Pilot, Student Rights Project founded
Education advocacy is expanded into Jackson County, thanks to the Gerald Beckwith Constitutional Liberties Fund. SAC pilots a small fee-based advocacy program for middle- and high-income families in our region, to allow us to serve more families. SAC starts collaborating with students from University of Michigan Law School and School of Social Work to start a volunteer school discipline advocacy project called the Student Rights Project (which now includes the School of Education).

2014, Wayne County Expansion, Youth Voice Starts
SAC opens an office in Detroit to better serve Wayne County, thanks to the Carls Foundation. SAC launches Youth Voice Ypsilanti at Ypsilanti Community High School (winter of 2014) and participates in the youth-organized, historic civil rights march from Detroit to Lansing to end unjust suspensions (April of 2014). Youth Voice launches in T.A. Wilson Academy in Jackson in the fall of 2014.

2015, Ingham County Expansion, Headquarters Move, Youth Action Michigan
SAC launches a volunteer advocacy project in Ingham County. Our headquarters in Ypsilanti move downtown to 124 Pearl Street, Suite 504. Youth Voice formally becomes Youth Action Michigan.

2016, Youth on Board                                                                                                              For the first time, SAC brings youth onto our board of directors after a planning process that included The Corner Health Center and Neutral Zone. We start with two young adults, both who had received services through SAC.

August 1, 2017, Legislate Win                                                                                         After years of advocacy, Rethink Discipline Bills take effect, ending zero tolerance in Michigan.

September 2018, Check and Connect expands                                                           SAC adds a 2nd Ypsilanti site to Check and Connect, serving students in the Lincoln Consolidated Schools district.

October 2018, Story Soiree                                                                                                 SAC has its first fundraiser in Detroit to support our growing work in Wayne County at the historic Kresge Mansion.

November 2019, Harvest Happy Hour                                                                            SAC has its first fundraiser in Jackson.

Spring 2020, COVID-19                                                                                                        SAC continues its hard work remotely, checking in on families by phone / Zoom, delivering items to homes and starting virtual support groups. We reschedule our annual storytelling fundraiser and stream a mix of live and pre-recorded stories on YouTube, where more than 190 joined in.

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