50 People Who Represent the Heart of Detroit
Detroit is fueled by community heroes dedicated to supporting children. In every pocket of the city, there are people nurturing and investing in our youth. From teachers and counselors, to doctors and nurses; librarians and statisticians, to mentors and artists. Some are youth themselves advocating for their peers. Others are caring adults who look to protect, guide and provide for kids.
Narrowing down a list of people who represent the care our city has for its youth was a challenging, yet rewarding project. We compiled the list by asking a few dozen Detroiters, “Who comes to mind when you think about = people who champion Detroit kids?”
The result: an extraordinary group of individuals representing a vast swath of communities, backgrounds, and ages. We asked each of them to share their aspiration for Detroit youth and what they’re doing to help make it a reality. What we heard back was an inspiring testament to the love our city holds for its kids.
1. Aswan Almaktary
Advocacy Specialist, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS)
Aspiration: For youth to thrive in school and beyond. Through ACCESS, I help ensure children and their families have access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, and other essential needs.
2. Alondra Alvarez
Youth Organizer, Congress of Communities and 482Forward
Aspiration: That our youth become leaders and the voice of their community. I coach youth to be organizers and to take pride in telling their stories.
3. Jasmin Barnett
Executive Director, Ladies in Training
Aspiration: For youth to know they matter. Too many kids in Detroit have been confined to their neighborhood; I work hard to introduce them to the larger world.
4. Odis Bellinger
Director and Founder, Building Better Men Program
Aspiration: That our young people are recognized as a precious resource. For 27 years, I’ve been humbled to support their development. “Watering” their dreams will help them thrive.
5. Anthony Benavides
Director, Clark Park Coalition
Aspiration: That youth excel, have fun, and be proud of where they live. I work to make a park where kids play and feel good about themselves.
6. Tanisha C. Burton
Founder, Today Is The Day LLC
Aspiration: For all children to know their self-worth. Today Is The Day provides parents of LGBTQ youth with resources that help them support and advocate for their children.
7. Kenyetta Campbell
Executive Director, Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance
Aspiration: For youth to continue to lead the transformation efforts that are taking place in Detroit. I support this by helping to create a pipeline of youth and young adult leadership.
8. Alandra D. Chuney
Director of Student Support and CollegePersistence, Midnight Golf Program
Aspiration: That youth understand the unlimited power they possess! I am committed to mentoring, empowering, and ensuring that they are exposed to diverse opportunities.
9. Dwayne T. Deck
Department Coordinator, Detroit Police Law Enforcement Explorers Program; Coordinator, Children In Trauma Intervention Camp
Aspiration: That our young people dream without limits, accomplish seemingly impossible goals, and live out their inner greatness. I mentor and support interactive programs for youth.
10. Bart Eddy
Co-Founder, Detroit Community Schools and the Sunbridge International Collaborative
Aspiration: For young people to transform community and discover themselves in the process. Through the Brightmoor Makers Entrepreneurship in Action program, I help ignite the creative and innovative possibilities within our youth.
11. Cindy Eggleton
Co-Founder and CEO, Brilliant Detroit
Aspiration: That neighborhoods come together to assure kids are ready for school and life. Brilliant Detroit provides spaces for programming and fellowship to make this happen.
12. Faith Charisa Fells
History Teacher, Detroit Public Schools Community District
Aspiration: For young people to be change agents in their communities. Through teaching, I help my students identify what they care about, and how to explain their “why.”
13. Andrea Ford-Ayer
Principal, West Side Academy of Information Technology and Cyber Security
Aspiration: That our children reach their greatest potential. I facilitate a fast track to graduation, career training, and certification with opportunities for the whole child to thrive.
14. Servando Garza
Youth Leader, Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation
Aspiration: That kids aim for greater heights. I help by showing them that regardless of their background, they are able to do anything.
15. Edgar Gomez
Lead Youth Organizer, 482Forward; Youth Program Coordinator, Urban Neighborhood Initiatives
Aspiration: That children will never have to be in closing schools with no teachers and outdated books, like I did. I work to bring justice for our youth.
16. Stacey L. Graham
First Grade Teacher, University Prep Science and Math Elementary School
Aspiration: For our youth to have an equitable education. I deliver instruction based off children’s individual needs and encourage them to always give their very best.
17. Chanel Hampton, M.A., M.ED.
Founder and President, Strategic Community Partners
Aspiration: For youth to own their power and path, inspiring and leading Detroit, our nation, and the world. Strategic Community Partners creates community-centered spaces and initiatives that youth deserve, want, and need.
Youth Leader, 482Forward
Aspiration: For youth to steer the city’s comeback—not billionaires and outsiders. I’m here to inspire and support what’s already here.
19. Louis Harris
Aspiration: That young people—with the spirit of hope—love and respect themselves and others; and focus on giving their best to be successful in any positive path they choose. I volunteer with a number of organizations to enhance education, safety and parent engagement.
20. Anise Hayes
Executive Director, Atlantic Impact
Aspiration: For young people to believe their city is a place where they can be academically, economically, and professionally empowered. I work with Atlantic Impact to make this a reality!
21. Everett Hodge
Project Director, Clockwise Education
Aspiration: For youth to receive the best education and training. I am a strong advocate for wraparound services to remove barriers that can prevent youth from attaining their goals.
Family and School Engagement Specialist, SchoolSmarts
Aspiration: For children to dream BIG. Through SchoolSmarts, I help remove barriers to education and create an environment where dreaming big is the norm.
23. Kim Johnson
President and CEO, Developing K.I.D.S.; Network and Operations Manager, Youth Development Resource Center
Aspiration: For children to be educated, safe, healthy, and exposed to opportunities and new experiences. I work to keep kids the number one priority in our city.
24. Tammie Jones
Vice President of Education, United Way for Southeastern Michigan
Aspiration: For our young people’s success to be supported. By leveraging the strengths of business, education and community, we’re mobilizing hearts and resources to expand opportunities!
25. Nicole Jurek
Founder, Local Circles
Aspiration: For youth to be ready for work and college. Local Circles provides young people with an opportunity to lead research projects on social issues that inspire them.
26. Frank McGhee
Aspiration: For our young people to be community leaders, committed to transforming their neighborhoods. I passionately mentor our youth to help inspire them toward this end.
27. Andrea Meyer
Executive Director, Center for Success Network
Aspiration: That young people positively contribute to their community and society, and gain success. I support academic growth so they can achieve their highest potential.
28. Justin Milhouse
Photographer and Videographer
Aspiration: That kids embrace a vision for themselves limited only by their imagination. I mentor youth, serving as a creative resource and endeavoring to establish an artistic, expressive space in Detroit.
Sheriff, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office
Aspiration: That young people have the support needed to be healthy, well-educated, and civically engaged. I am a mentor, former little league coach, president of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Youth and Senior Education Fund, and 20-year board member of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids of Michigan.
30. Sarah Nasher
Youth Leader, Chadsey Condon Community Organization
Aspiration: That Detroit youth have every opportunity that students in more privileged areas have. I help plan events focused on expanding opportunity.
31. Abdoeldame Obeid
Youth Leader, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services
Aspiration: That youth reach the right pathways in school and life. I help ensure they have the resources needed to do so.
32. Kwaku Osei-Bonsu
Founder, BlackMetroEats.com and Organizer of Detroit Black Restaurant Week
Aspiration: For Detroit kids to enjoy food that is real, healthy, and truly accessible. I help by way of school lunch reform within Detroit’s public and charter school networks.
33. Sara Plachta Elliott
Executive Director, Youth Development Resource Center
Aspiration: That children have many opportunities to expand their interests and skills after school and in the summer! The YDRC supports adults that serve youth to measure quality, improve programming, and advocate.
34. Melissa M. Ponce
School Social Worker, Detroit Public Schools Community District
Aspiration: For students to see themselves in positions of power and realize their dreams are possible. That’s why I, a Latinx, choose to work in DPSCD.
35. Julia Putnam
Principal, The James and Grace Lee Boggs School
Aspiration: Our youth can create a Detroit that works for all. The Boggs School helps by nurturing creative, critical thinkers who contribute to the well-being of their communities.
36. Angela Reyes
Executive Director and Founder, Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation
Aspiration: That children have every opportunity to reach their full potential and become happy, healthy, and productive adults. DHDC makes a difference by creating life-changing opportunities for youth and their families.
Founder, We Are Culture Creators
Aspiration: For the youth of Detroit to find a place of love, support, and reaffirmation. I provide a space of healing and artistic expression.
38. Bishop Tony Russell
Founder, The MAN Network; CEO, Detroit Community Solutions
Aspiration: For children to feel valued, capable, and safe to live their dreams. I help keep kids safe and train them to become incredible leaders.
39. Kayana Z. Sessoms
Program Director, Osborn Neighborhood Alliance
Aspiration: For youth to have the tools to navigate through their everyday lives and to conquer any obstacle. I support this by developing solution-focused programs that improve their overall quality of life.
40. T. Sonuyi
Medical Director, Detroit Life is Valuable Everyday (DLIVE)
Aspiration: For young people’s life expectancy to not be determined by their zip code. DLIVE addresses this through a health-centered approach to community violence and trauma.
41. Khali Sweeney
Founder and CEO, Downtown Boxing Gym
Aspiration: That students achieve their dreams. Downtown Boxing Gym empowers Detroit students with education (books before boxing), mentoring, enrichment opportunities, college and career readiness, and an insatiable winning spirit.
42. Bernadette Taliaferro-Cain
Director, Heritage Youth Program
Aspiration: For our children to learn and develop skills that will enable them to reach their full potential. Heritage Youth Program helps them stay out of trouble, attend school, and become self-sufficient.
43. James E. Tate, Jr.
District 1 Council Member, City of Detroit
Aspiration: That young people have access to opportunities that lay the foundation for successful growth. My team and I support this through our various office initiatives, focusing on mentoring, student engagement, and providing additional resources youth may need.
44. Pam Taurence
Registered Nurse, CCM, Access Management Specialist, Children’s Hospital of Michigan
Aspiration: For children to live full, healthy, happy lives. I co-lead an annual cereal drive at Children’s Hospital of Michigan alongside fellow nurses—so no child goes without breakfast during the summer months.
45. Alice G. Thompson
Chief Executive Officer, Black Family Development, Inc.
Aspiration: For children to have access to abundant opportunities; to thrive in safe, loving and supportive homes, schools and communities. This is at the heart of my daily work.
46. Vanessa Vela
Youth Program Coordinator, Urban Neighborhood Initiatives
Aspiration: For young people to have access to become who they want to be in life. I offer my help during the school year to keep them on track.
47. Mary Jo Vortkamp
Children’s Librarian and Manager, Franklin Branch of the Detroit Public Library
Aspiration: To work with everyone and anyone to help Detroit youth become the happiest and most skilled adults—who love to read—in the United States.
48. Erika Villarreal Bunce
Director of Programs, Living Arts
Aspiration: That youth find their power. I help by introducing them to the arts as a tool for awakening their voices, expressing
confidence, and envisioning their own future.
49. Tony Whlgn®
Founder, The Whlgn®
Aspiration: For kids to have positive peer-to-peer leadership. We assist them in understanding the business behind what they love, and help bridge the gap between youth and our generation of mentors.
Founder and CEO, The Yunion
Aspiration: For Detroit youth to soar over negative cultural influences and into their purpose. The Yunion empowers them with innovative prevention programming, life skills training, and counseling.
The heart of Detroit doesn’t stop with this list! We want to hear from you, too.
Get social and post your aspiration for Detroit youth and how you’re making it happen using #kidsmatterhere