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College and Career Pathways, K-12 Education

What is the State of the City for Detroit Kids? Community Members Share Their Thoughts

Mayor Duggan recently delivered his state of the city address covering the accomplishments of the past year and outlining the work that still needs to be done. We’re thankful for the mayor and his leadership and we also want to acknowledge the exceptional leaders across the city that are dedicated to making Detroit a place where children thrive.

To help paint a broader picture of the state of Detroit, we’ve asked a handful of community leaders and youth for their opinion on the state of the city for children, and what their top priority is for bettering their neighborhood for kids.

Dehvin Banks

Member, Cody Rouge Youth Council

In one word, how would you describe the state of the city for Detroit children? 


There are a lot of issues in Detroit that can be rectified and changed through hard work. I see the most growth in the amount of opportunities for young people. There are a lot of programs and activities that are focused around young people that I’ve noticed. There are also a lot of new businesses in the city that help parents, which causes a domino effect and helps the children as well.

In the work you do to make Detroit a place where children thrive, what is your number one priority for 2018?

I’d like to change the mindset of youth in regard to becoming successful and offer them guidance. For those who don’t want to go to college or continue their education, I want to expose them to the world of higher education and the opportunities that come from it.


Aswan Almaktary

Advocacy Specialist, ACCESS

In one word, how would you describe the state of the city for Detroit children? 


Although Detroit still has a long way to go to ensure that all children and their families have access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, and basic needs, we are hopeful that the conditions and circumstances needed for children to thrive will improve.  We see a need for the city to come together (schools, districts, other CBOS, the business community, residents, local and state officials, and advocacy groups) to ensure that children are reading at grade level by third grade, that they graduate on time and with the academic and life skills needed to succeed beyond high school, and that families have access to supportive services that put them in a position to focus on their children’s academics. This must include a shift in how we work together to make the best use of resources, how we involve parents/caregivers in decision-making, how information is disseminated, the way in which educational institutions are held accountable, and how we involve the community in advocating for their basic rights and ensuring that they are at the table when decisions involving them are being made.

In the work you do to make Detroit a place where children thrive, what is your number one priority for 2018?

Although there are many needs, we see a gap that must be filled: setting up 8th graders for success by helping them in their transition into high school. Oftentimes “college or post-secondary preparation” involves high school youth. However, this preparation must start prior to students entering high school since academic failure and truancy is a major problem for many 9th graders, and a contributing reason for them dropping out of high school. A big part of the challenge is that students are not prepared mentally and with the knowledge and confidence needed to succeed in their first year of high school—and in most cases, neither do their parents/caregivers. My priority for 2018 is to provide 8th graders with a program that will introduce them to high school life (visits to high schools, knowledge on resources available to help the succeed, information on credit accumulation/credit recovery, how to avoid the “pitfalls” that can lead to academic failure, and access to mentors).


Quan Neloms

Teacher, Detroit Public Schools Community District

In one word, how would you describe the state of the city for Detroit children? 


In one word I would describe the state of the city for Detroit children as driven. To be clear, in describing the city, I am speaking of the people of Detroit. Given the various obstacles that may hinder the achievement and growth of Detroit’s children, I have witnessed the people rise up with compassion and concern and plausible solutions to overcome such obstacles. The drive to build up our young people, despite the odds, runs strong within the people of the Motor City.

In the work you do to make Detroit a place where children thrive, what is your number one priority for 2018?

My number one priority for 2018 is to continue to assist in gathering resources for the school in which I currently teach, Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men. In my 15 years of teaching I have come to realize that the most important resources that are needed for the success of our young people in school is found within—within their parents and families and our community. It is important that young people view their families and communities as assets and a source of power and pride.

Schools are ideal for galvanizing support for young people. I have seen our school’s students grow and thrive through thoughtful, well-intentioned, parent, teacher and community engagement.  Currently, Frederick Douglass Academy is experiencing an increase in parent and community involvement. This investment in our students, the majority of whom are young Black men, has resulted in academic support from local universities, certification classes led by local tradesmen, an increase in male mentors and mentorship programs, the creation of a school barbershop, an increase in extracurricular activities and much more.

I would like to expound on the importance of young Black men seeing reflections of themselves within their school. Because of the lack of male teachers, in particular Black male teachers, it became necessary to recruit members of the community to serve as volunteers, guest speakers and mentors within the school. With that said, it is important to note that this outpouring of support has been spurred by the self-determination of parents, educators and concerned community and faculty members. All this was done for the altruistic purpose of building up our young people.

The most sustainable model of building the success of young people in our city is centered around the engagement of our parents and community. Because of this, for 2018 I plan to continue to assist with creating this most powerful partnership within the school I serve.


Christine Bell

Executive Director, Urban Neighborhood Initiatives

What’s the state of the city for Detroit kids?


According to data collected in 2015, 58 percent of our children are chronically absent from school, that is, they missed two or more days a month. The reasons for missing school are many: health, transportation, learning difficulties, and social and emotional problems. Our current support systems are not robust and substantial enough to tackle the major issues that are blocking our children’s path to success. Being in school every day, on time, all day is one important side of the success equation.

The other is equally crucial: quality education and equitable opportunity to thrive. It is about time spent in school and out-of-school time. Our children need quality school and youth development opportunities in their neighborhoods.

What is your number one priority for 2018?

In 2018, the number one priority of Urban Neighborhood Initiatives is to focus on opportunity for youth in the Springwells neighborhood; to develop their voice and agency, implement projects and assess programs that impact their lives and their community — with a special focus on the work of decreasing chronic absenteeism.


Ramona Washington

Director, AmeriCorps Urban Safety Program (AMUS) Initiative

In one word, how would you describe the state of the city for Detroit children? 


Detroit is rising. The future is promising as public spaces are renewed, public safety and police resources are improved, and economic development and opportunities return to Detroit residents and communities. Detroit children continue to face significant challenges. Nonetheless, they are rising also. They rise to finish school. They rise to serve their community. They rise to believe in their future. They rise to engage with the city in working toward the positive changes that will make real the promise that is made to them and for them. Yes, the children of Detroit are rising.

In the work you do to make Detroit a place where children thrive, what is your number one priority for 2018?

My number one priority for 2018 is to provide an environment where at-promise youth are safe to explore, grow, and engage with their community, and where there are pathways to develop their capacity for civic engagement and learning everywhere they go, well beyond any classroom or program.

Listening to the voices of community members is an essential step in assessing the true state of Detroit and helping to build a vision for the future of our great city. During this period of resurgence, Detroit’s success is undoubtable tied to our ability to become a city that cares for children.


In one word, how you would characterize the state of the city for Detroit kids?

The Skillman Foundation

A voice for children since 1960, The Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy that serves as a fierce champion of Detroit children. The Foundation works to ensure Detroit youth achieve their highest aspirations by strengthening K-12 public education, afterschool learning opportunities, and college and career pathways.

Comments (1)

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  • Linda Elum, Ed.D.

    As I retired Detroit Public School teacher, one of the main factors in failure with the student is the parent(s). People take classes in all areas for training and development. But when it comes to parenting, there is no classes,except for those parents going before the courts for their lack of skills. We assume that because a person has a baby they know how to be a parent. Society has shown that this is not a truth and because of that there are programs available to the public.
    I do not believe that there are enough classes and follow-up classes to ensure that a parent understands the ramifications of poor parenting and the effects on the child for his/her future.
    As I read the statements above I was pleased to see that the community and parenting is a part of the present and future when reaching out to the student. I would have liked to read how they are doing it and what is coming for the next school year.

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