1998-1999: The Building Blocks
The Idea: K-grams was officially founded in the summer of 1998 by Rishi Moudgil, a sophomore at the University of Michigan. Already very active within the volunteer community, Rishi saw the need for establishing an ongoing relationship between college students and children. While seeing other mentoring/tutoring programs as somewhat cumbersome, he recognized the potential for a pen pal program between university residence halls and elementary schools - a simple yet effective way to establish these community relationships. Rishi took these enormous possibilities for the program and began to solicit his friends and colleagues to help launch the program. By the June of 1998, he had already named the program K-grams (short for Kids Programs) and the first official meeting was July 16th with a half-dozen eager volunteers!
Expanding the Horizons:strong> Six Ann Arbor elementary schools - Bryant, Carpenter, Mitchell, Northside, Pattengill, and Pittsfield - were initially recruited to join the program. Nine residence halls were originally chosen, and, as the school year approached, heavy recruiting began. A total of 750 University students were brought into the program in less than two weeks by long days and nights of recruiting relentlessly though Welcome Week and the residence halls! At the beginning of the second semester, K-grams expanded to its first school outside of Ann Arbor - Holmes Elementary School in Ypsilanti. By the end of its first year, K-grams reached over 850 University pen pals and laid a framework for the organization to continue to grow.
The First K-grams Kids-Fair: The program expanded in other ways, too - pen pals began doing projects! Projects included activities at schools and in-hall events as well. These successful interactions between "big kids" and "little kids" sparked the idea for Kids-Fair, the culminating event that brought together teachers, parents, faculty, pen pals, and volunteers to conclude a successful first year for K-grams. The original Kids-Fair was planned for Palmer Field, but then moved to Oosterbaan Fieldhouse and included 115 student groups in its first year. Live entertainment, yellow shirts, charity drive for school supplies, collecting box tops for education, and many great student booths highlighted a day where kids of all ages learned together with each other!