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Detroit, MI (May 2023)—Derek Aguirre, Executive Director of Racquet Up Detroit (RUD), has a picture hanging on his office wall that means a lot to him. It’s 2010 and he’s standing with a class of 5th graders in the MacDowell Elementary School gymnasium. He remembers trying to convince them to try out for Racquet Up Detroit – a new afterschool program in the neighborhood that combines squash with academics. SquashBusters began in Boston in 1996 and its successful youth development formula spread to more than 20 member programs across the country, including Racquet Up Detroit. “I remember the kids looking up at me thinking, “Who is this guy?” he says, with a laugh.
Detroit, MI (January 2023)—Studies show that when it comes to college studies and careers in zoology, African Americans are enormously underrepresented. In fact, less than three percent of all zoology degrees are awarded to African American students. University Prep Schools, which has a 98 percent African American student population, wanted to change that statistic, and cultivate a strong pipeline from its science classrooms to university zoological studies and careers.
Alpena, MI (April 2022)—“The best way to get someone to protect something is to get them to love it and the best way to get them to love it is for them to experience it.” That’s one of the mottos driving the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (The Sanctuary), says Superintendent, Jeff Gray. Located in Alpena, the 4,300 square-mile, federally-protected marine sanctuary is the nation’s first freshwater sanctuary and contains over 200 of the world’s best-preserved historic shipwrecks.
Detroit, MI (November 2021)—The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be an incredibly challenging time for students, parents and teachers alike. The stressors of online schooling and work-from-home set-ups created less than ideal environments for families. Luckily, spaces like the Downtown Boxing Gym (DBG) exist, a free academic and athletic program that provides Detroit students with the tools they need to succeed. Since 2007, the organization has provided tutoring, mentorship, enrichment programs, college and career prep, social-emotional skills building, and basic needs support.
Ferndale, MI (June 2021)—Growing up, we all want to fit in. We all want to be a part of a community. Statistics show LGBTQ+ youth are marginalized significantly more frequently than other youth. What’s more, LGBTQ+ youth, particularly minority youth, face greater rates of discrimination and unemployment compared to their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts.
Detroit, MI (February 2021)—Research by Johns Hopkins University shows that students who are most likely to drop out of school can be identified as early as 6th grade. This is determined by looking at early warning indicators: poor attendance, disruptive behavior and course failure in English or math. In Detroit, a disproportionate number of students exhibit these indicators.
Detroit, MI (September 2020)—Kindergarten readiness is a powerful predictor of success later in life. Science shows 80 to 90 percent of the brain is developed by age three, making early childhood the critical time for children to experience high-quality programming. In Detroit, STEAM-based learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) is not readily available for families in need.
Detroit, MI (June 2020)— Khali Sweeney grew up in the Detroit Public Schools not knowing how to read or write. He remembers the narrative that was reinforced to him over and over again — “it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re going to be dead or in jail by the time you’re 21.” It’s a narrative he never forgot, and one of his motivations in creating the Downtown Boxing Gym.
Detroit, MI (December 20, 2019)—“What we found in our research is that there isn't an urban school system and a large urban zoo partnering to create a zoology animal science program. So, we thought, ‘We're going to be the first."" Mark Ornstein, Chief Executive Officer, University Prep Schools
The majority of jobs in Michigan – 62 percent – require a post-secondary education. Many underserved students are unable attain these jobs and the economic security that they will provide because they do not meet the education criteria. In community colleges, for example, only a fifth of students graduate. Students often struggle as they navigate complex college requirements and juggle the demands of work, family and financial obligations.