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K-12 Education

A Fierce Caregiver; Actualized!

Kurt Griggs-Swanson with a group of mentees at Detroit’s Center for Success

Organizations and people committed to improving outcomes for Detroit’s children are deeply embedded in the heart and tapestry of the city. These champions work harder with every waking day to combat, circumvent, and break down barriers to our children’s success and ensure that their futures are bright.

The selfless dedication of these youth advocates can be summarized in the words of Muhammad Ali: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

Over the last few months, I have been searching for new ways to serve my community and deepen my connection with the Foundation’s grant partners. It was my goal to better understand the people and organizations that are making such an important impact in the lives of Detroit’s young people by seeing their work firsthand. After a discussion with Terry Whitfield, one of our program officers, I was connected with the inspiring team at The Center for Success.

Located in a 3-story office building adjacent to the old Packard Plant at the intersection of Mount Elliott and East Grand Boulevard, The Center for Success is an organization dedicated to impacting young people through education and exposure to social interaction and activities.

Over the course of several months, I spent a few hours twice a week mentoring a group of youth participating in The Center’s programming. As we spent more time together, these young people were excited to see me and looked forward to our mentoring sessions, just as I did.

The experience allowed me to learn more about The Center’s curriculum, which focuses on frequent one-on-one interactions between mentors and mentees. As a volunteer, I was able to read, provide homework assistance, make book selections, and lead a variety of other enrichment activities with my young mentees. If we were able to finish our sessions with time to spare, kids would either want to play a game or play basketball—and they always looked forward to this!

Kurt with members of the Center for Success leadership team

From my first day with the program, I could see the dedication and commitment of the program’s staff including Andrea Meyer, executive director, and Anna Burghardt and Will Rosevear, Detroit program directors. They are joined by numerous volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure our kids receive the additional support needed to become all that they can be. They are courageous adults who are committed to guiding, listening and, caring for our Detroit’s youth.

May 16 marked the final day of the program year. To commemorate the hard work and progress of my mentees, I sponsored a pizza party for them. It was a wonderful way to wrap up our time together, and the kids were excited and full of energy. They even made me a special gift: A miniaturized lantern with a note that said, “Thank you for being a light in the life of a child.” After reading this, I was immediately inspired. At that moment, I realized how we earn our keep and how we pay our rent that Muhammad Ali referenced.

To all the people who work hard to show our children they are smart, talented, and loved,  I salute you.

Kurt’s gift from his mentees

Wherever you are, whatever you do, and however you show up for Detroit most prized possession—our kids—you too are a beacon of light and a giant to every child you reach. They are counting on us to work, strive, and make an impact together, today and every day.

My experience at The Center for Success reminds me of the inspiring words of Mr. Cleveland, a former teacher of mine who would lead us in a powerful, self-esteem boosting affirmation:

“I AM somebody. I may not look like everybody, but I AM somebody. I feel like I AM somebody. I look like I AM somebody. I act like I AM somebody. Everybody is somebody to somebody. But nobody, but nobody can make me feel like a nobody. If you want to love somebody, then love me. If you want to help somebody, then help me. I AM somebody, YOU are somebody, and don’t YOU ever forget it!”

Don’t you ever forget it!

Kurt Griggs-Swanson

Provides administrative support to Carmen Kennedy-Rogers, Matthew Hoerauf, and Terry Whitfield

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