Grand Rapids mayor wins national education award


George Heartwell. Photo via

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell has won the Friend of Education award from a national organization for his “enduring” contributions to education.

The National Association of State Boards of Education, or NASBE, will present Heartwell with the award in October during the organization’s national conference in Baltimore.

The Friend of Education award is given annually to a citizen “whose primary work may be outside the realm of education policy and education systems, but whose contributions to education are significant and enduring.”

State-level nomination

The Michigan State Board of Education unanimously voted to nominate Heartwell for the award.

In the nomination, the organization described Heartwell as “a man dedicated to social justice, equity and driving systemic change to improve the quality of life for children, youth and families through education, housing, employment, climate policy and sustainability practices.”

Noting that public education primarily remains a local and statewide responsibility, NASBE Executive Director Kristen Amundson said local leaders like Heartwell “are essential to preserving educational opportunities for all children.”


Heartwell recently received national praise for his Mayor’s 100 Campaign, which works with local businesses to create jobs and ensure that the city’s youth are prepared for them.

He has influenced numerous education programs and policies through his leadership and advocacy and been widely recognized for his initiatives to preserve and protect the environment.

Under his guidance, Grand Rapids has been recognized by the United Nations as a Regional Center of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development and by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the nation’s Most Sustainable City.

He is also a member of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.

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