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As the CEO and President of the Detroit Economic Club, Steve Grigorian regularly rubs shoulders with some of the most powerful people in the world – from titans of industry to U.S. presidents.
But the people who bring the biggest smile to his face? The students at the AGBU Alex & Marie Manoogian School, a charter school in Southfield.
Steve has been a charter school board member at the Manoogian School for the past three years, and he says he relishes every minute his service there. The Manoogian School is a K-8 charter school authorized by Central Michigan University that has a special focus on teaching and preserving the Armenian culture and language.
I first became aware of the school when some Manoogian students came to an event we hosted at the DEC,” Steve said. “I’m Armenian, so I was very interested in learning about the school and all the things they were doing. I had been talking with Hosep (Torossian, the school’s high school principal) for a long time, and we struck up a friendship. He eventually asked me in the fall of 2020 if I would be interested in joining the board.”
Steve did his homework, studying the school, its mission and what his role would be as a charter school board member.
I did my due diligence, and I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to serve,” he said. “I’ve always been heavily involved with youth, going back to my days as a camp counselor. I just thought this would be an excellent way to get involved with serving youth."
A graduate of Albion College, Steve had a background in marketing before joining the DEC in 2004 as its Chief Operating Officer. In 2017, he moved up and became the group’s CEO and President. The Detroit Economic Club is a non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to the discussion and debate of important business, government and social issues. The DEC regularly brings big-name speakers to Detroit; among other things, the club has hosted every U.S. president since Richard Nixon.
So Steve Grigorian is a hard man to impress, but he was impressed with what they were doing at the Manoogian School.
I was really taken with the mission of the school,” he said. “The consistent themes I saw all had to do with the family atmosphere and the culture they’ve created here. They really care about the individual first. They treat each one of these kids like they’re their own. They combine that with rigorous academics and a cutting-edge STEAM program and so much more.”
When Steve joined the board, he immediately started looking for what he could bring to the table.
I wanted to contribute as much as I could, so when I joined the board, I saw an opportunity to help them on the marketing side,” he said. “I headed up the marketing committee and we worked to get the word out about what an amazing school this is. I feel that in many ways, this is a great secret. We wanted everyone to know about us.”
For those who aren’t familiar with the role of a charter school board member, Steve is happy to explain. The board provides oversight and accountability, looking out for the best interests of both students and taxpayers.
We’re not here to manage the school,” he said. “We’re the rudder. We provide direction to school leadership and preserve the school’s mission. Our job is to position these students for the future. We help the school prepare for the rapid changes coming in the world. These students are going to be filling jobs that don’t even exist yet. What I try to bring to the board is a forward-thinking approach.”
And with three years of service now, what does Steve Grigorian think about his time as a charter school board member?
I love it,” he said. “To be able to help these students secure their future – there’s nothing better.”