RAWK Spotlight: Anne Hensley & Emmy Kastner

For the month of September, we are shining the RAWK Spotlight on

Anne Hensley & Emmy Kastner

The RAWK Spotlight is a monthly series that celebrates folx who embody and serve the mission of empowering youth voices. Folx in the RAWK Spotlight can be anyone from staff, to volunteers, to Board Members, to community partners. They are chosen by the RAWK staff team by merit of their passion, dedication, and enthusiasm for serving local youth and their community!

“Celebrating and Amplifying Youth Voices” is what Anne Hensley and Emmy Kastner set out to do nearly 10 years ago. These amazing humans worked passionately and intentionally to create a space for youth to share their stories, learn, grow, and thrive!















Keep reading to hear from several RAWKstars, including RAWK’s staff and Board team about Anne and Emmy’s impact at RAWK and the community: 

“Ten years ago, two radiant souls came together to speak a vision into existence. Celebrating and amplifying youth voice, they believed, was fundamental to cultivating intellectual and creative confidence, and the joyful work of celebration and amplification deserved a home in Kalamazoo. The journey of building began. From humble beginnings on the second floor of what is now Factory Coffee, to gaining 501c3 status and assembling a first board, to opening the space at the corner of Vine and Westnedge, to hiring an incredibly talented staff who have grown an inspiring slate of programs and supporters, to hundreds of books read and works published by young people in our community, the vision Anne and Emily voiced for RAWK now reverberates across Kalamazoo on the daily. Voices, like luminaries, make waves. Hats off on a decade of RAWKing good impact, you two.”

–Sarah Mansberger


“It has been an honor and a privilege to carry on the legacy of these two amazing humans during this season of RAWK. As I continue to learn more about the history of RAWK, I am overwhelmed by deep gratitude as a youth advocate and educator. Starting a non-profit is not an easy task, but to dedicate your time, energy and resources to start a non-profit whose sole purpose is to celebrate and amplify youth voices is incredibly inspiring. I am so grateful for their work and commitment to youth in this community. It is my hope that we continue to give Anne and Emmy their well deserved flowers not only at 10 years, but for the MANY, MANY years ahead!”

–Dr. Kandace Lavender (RAWK executive director)


“Anne & Emmy, you should be so, so proud of RAWK! You started something incredible that is making a big difference for youth in our community. Thank you for making the world a creative, curious, and caring place!”

–Chris Burns (RAWK board treasurer)


“It is surreal to think that Read and Write Kalamazoo has reached the 10 year mark. I can’t believe it’s been that long! It seems like yesterday that I was asked to come on as an inaugural board member. At that time, RAWK was the brain child of two wonderful humans that I respected so much. I jumped at the chance to help them to grow RAWK’s mission. Being a part of those initial conversations about equity and access. Participating in strategic planning sessions where we dreamed of the possibilities of RAWK’s impact. 10 years later, I can truly say that the vision is being fully realized. This world NEEDS the folx that are courageous enough to dream. Thank you so much to Anne and Emmy for their courage!”

–Marissa Harrington (RAWK board president)


“You are a source of inspiration for those around you!”

–Bri Edgerton (RAWK engagement coordinator)


“Anne and Emmy, I’ve always been proud to have been part of RAWK from the very beginning and of the opportunity to work with you in getting it off the ground. Your legacy lives on in Victoria, Dionna, Marissa, Nikki, Kandace, and in the myriad ways RAWK continues to amplify youth voices in this community. I will also be forever grateful that I could commiserate with (i.e., HUG) you both the morning after the 2016 election when we were unable to focus on RAWK business but rather stared at each other in shock and disbelief. I was particularly grateful for both of you that day and I remain grateful to have had each of you in my life. Love you both, Karen”

–Karen Trout (former RAWK board president)


“I recall a coffee meeting with Emmy where she was pitching board membership. I was sold within 5 minutes. The vision was clear and the energy contagious. I appreciate Anne and Emmy acting on their dream and vision and sharing their energy so widely as they built community around reading and writing.”

–Bridget Timmeney (RAWK board member)


“Anne and Emily, it’s so very hard to find words to adequately express my gratitude for you and the organization you created. The two of you saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself and you gave me a beautiful container in which to learn and grow and connect with the Kalamazoo community. As I look back over my years with RAWK, I am in awe of the amazing people – grown and young – who I’ve had the privilege to work alongside and the extraordinary things we’ve accomplished together. Your work has touched and shaped countless lives for the better and I am so proud to be part of your legacy.”

–Victoria Marcetti (RAWK director of programs)


“September will be my first year working for RAWK! This organization has opened my thoughts to another world of youths and the great staff I work with. Thank you for RAWK for RAWKING IT!”

–Amy Hall (RAWK program coordinator)


“Have you ever found yourself sitting across a table from two of the most amazing humans of all time and they tell you to ask them anything about the nonprofit they created that you are about to step into as they step away? No? Well, I had that honor and privilege. Emily and Anne, you two most amazing humans, look what you created. Look how it’s grown. Ten years, three cycles of executive directors, the very first staff member hired is now Director of Programs. Some of those first youth at that very first summer writing camp are in their 20s now. I bet they still think about RAWK when they write sometimes… Happy RAWKiversary – a decade of amplifying youth voice and reminding them that those voices are already there, already strong, and that they have all the power!”

–Nicki Poer (former RAWK executive director)


“You are making an impact!”

–Tatiyana Murray (RAWK board member)