Introducing The Skillman Visionary Awards

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.

Anthony Benevides

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.

Andrea Chuney

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.

Bart Eddy

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.

18. Imani Simone Harris

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.

imani harris

19. Louis Harris

Youth Advocate

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.

22. Beverly Ann Hogan

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.

Beverly Ann Hogan

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.

Nicole Jurek

26. Frank McGhee

Youth Advocate

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.

Frank McGhee

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.

29. Benny N. Napoleon

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.

Benny Napoleon Sherrif

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, 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.

37. Michael Reyes

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.

Michael Reyes

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.

Dr. Sonuyi

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.

Alice Thompson

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.

50. Jason Wilson

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.

jason wilson

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

Comments (11)

Leave your Response
  • Shaunda M. Bunton

    Thank you for this list of beautiful people that are committed.

  • Lisa Card

    Awesome…. I quite a few well-deserving Community leaders. Congratulations to all keep up the good work the community definitely need you.

  • David Greenwood -

    I’d like to add Detroit Police Athletic League COO Robert Jamerson to this list. Robert left corporate America and it’s pay to take on this role at the non-profit PAL to be closer to his wife & their newly adopted son. Rob is transforming Detroit PAL with his innovative leadership skills and helping 14,000+ Detroit area youth find their greatness!

  • Teferi Brent -

    Providing safe spaces for our young people to be culturally aware, academically empowered, and spiritually informed to make significant contributions to our community and people unapologetically and uncompromisingly…

  • Bernita Bradley

    Awesome list, Glad to seeso many bute en happier to see Edgar Gomez and Beverly Hogan.

  • Gail Perry-Mason

    Congratulations to each individual that gives so much to Detroit……Proud of you and Forever Grateful for all that you do!
    Thank you Skillman for investing in our youth.

  • Dorethia Kelly -

    Awesome list, it’s good to see people recognized for being champions for our youth and families!!

  • Carlo Brown

    How wonderful God Bless you all. Special shout to Mr. Wilson continue doing Gods work.🙏🏾😊❤️

  • Adrian L. Green

    Very impressive and accurate list of committed and conscientious Detroiters dedicated to making this city what it should be.

  • Jonathan M Wynne -

    It is important to the transformation of our community, to lift up those who do the work when the cameras are off. You have made some excellent selections. May God bless their efforts and the resilient people of Detroit they have served with excellence.

  • Joseph S.Spicer sr. -

    I love the list of people on your site committed to developing the youth’s of Detroit and helping the communities within it, I to have inspired to help the young men and women, parents and mentors by providing them with a teaching tool called “I Will Not Be A Pawn” I’m the author and a Detroit Public school graduate from Detroit Northwestern High. Won a award for “Best African American Non Fiction book in 2017 from Indie Excellence books, also a finalist in a Multi Cultural award in 2017 this book was written for the youth’s and parents of our communities as a teaching tool.

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