Our Story

We believe students can change the world.

optiMize unleashes that potential by creating inspiring environments for students to take action on self-directed projects that work toward a just and sustainable world.

Jeff Sorensen, Tim Pituch, Angelle Kettlewell, and Michael Maiorano co-founded optiMize in 2012 while they were students at Michigan. Since then, optiMize has become a supportive community for students and mentors working collaboratively. We're now 3000 strong and growing—and new people join us every day!

Each summer, we fund student teams to work full-time on their projects as optiMize Fellows. These teams are already making a big impact: Blueprints for Pangaea has distributed more than $2 million of wasted medical supplies to hospitals in need. ReSource Fund created a financial coaching model that the United Way picked up and scaled across our county. Gwydion is developing virtual reality platforms for cutting edge research and learning. These are just a few examples—we’ve funded 80 student-led project teams over six cohorts.

For five months before funding decisions, student teams participate in the optiMize Social Innovation Challenge—our co-curricular project incubator that provides workshops, mentorship, and resources to grow an idea into real impact. So far, the Challenge has incubated more than 1000 social impact projects. If you can think of something positive you want to do, even if you don't think of it as a "startup", we can almost guarantee it will fit with optiMize!

There's lots of ways to get involved today: Start a Project, Be a Mentor, or Make a Gift! And if you live near Ann Arbor, the best way to get started is to stop by our next event!

We hope you'll join us and start optiMizing!


Want to hear more?

Our Mission

We cultivate the optiMize community

Bringing people together for transformative education

Creating projects that illuminate possibilities

In passionate pursuit of a just and sustainable future

Practicing love and care in all we do

To help everyone we meet ask themselves, “Why not me?”


Our Guiding Principles

Our Principles guide how we relate to each other, how we work together, and what we strive for. They are at the core of everything we do, from how we make organizational decisions to treat each other on a daily basis. We believe that practicing them helps us thrive as an organization and grow as individuals. We hope that you'll join us and help us build on, refine, and strengthen our Guiding Principles!


  1. Student-led education, youth-led change

  2. Asking ourselves, “Why not me?”

  3. Sustainable social impact

  4. Illuminating possibilities

  5. Prototyping and iteration

  6. Collaboration and mentorship

  7. Supportive community

  8. Free choice and self-direction

  9. Responsible stewardship

  10. Servant leadership

  11. Living the future we want, today

  12. A valued part of our local community


Thanks to Zingerman’s for providing a great example of Mission and Guiding Principles!