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K-12 Education

5 Ways We’re Showing Love to Detroit Students & Teachers

Today is Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated to displaying admiration and love to others. I wish to take this opportunity to say: We love you, Detroit students and educators!  

It was not long ago that I myself was in the classroom and school community.  Prior to joining The Skillman Foundation in 2019, I served for 20 years as a teacher, principal, and central office leader in five different public-school districts in southeast Michigan. And, I am a proud to say that I was a Detroit public schools student. From firsthand experience, I understand the unwavering commitment and daily investment of students and educators.

As you continue to boldly walk your journeys of learning, teaching, and leading, we at The Skillman Foundation travel alongside you.  

Here is how we are walking with you:

Nurture reading as a superpower

We are here to help our students unleash their reading superpowers. We support literacy education and tutoring both inside schools as well as through afterschool and summer programs. In partnership with schools, community organizations, and other philanthropic partners, we are building stronger connections between early childhood education and elementary schools to strengthen kindergarten readiness, literacy skills, and positive attendance habits in the early years of life.

Reading unlocks brilliance! Becoming a strong reader opens doors to life’s opportunities and we want Detroit students to have access to all the opportunities in the world. It allows young people to deepen their knowledge, uncover a variety of interests, and experience the world through words and images.   Reading allows children to embrace their authenticity, develop their voice, and become changemakers in their city, state, country, and world.   

Caring for kids’ social-emotional health

Schools offer safe, supportive, and nurturing environments for students. We know that for students to thrive as learners, their social-emotional health must be kept at the center of their school experience.  We work with school partners and community organizations to support positive school climate and culture and to strengthen school and community partnerships. We are proud to partner with community advocates that work with school teams to increase attendance and cultivate an engaging school climate and culture that centers positive interactions among students and adults in the buildings. We partner with community organizations and experts that support educators in humanizing classrooms and fostering school communities that are centered on student voice and leadership.    

Supporting educator wellness

Educator wellness and mental fortitude are key factors to ensure all are triumphant and can conquer.   Our teachers are the heartbeat of our schools. They pump knowledge, commitment, and love into our students each day, despite the circumstances. Our principals are the pillars of Detroit school communities. They answer the call to action each day to lead and serve their students, families, and staff. We advocate for teachers and principal wellness and self-care, so these integral leaders retain the energy to show up every day to teach, lead, and serve. We partner with education experts to cultivate and lead a professional learning community that’s dedicated to educator wellness, so that students are surrounded by adults who are present, healthy, and vibrant.  

Working together

We partner with individuals, schools, and community organizations across Detroit to address urgent needs and stubborn barriers so that students can have full access to learning. The health pandemic has amplified that this is the opportune time to align and coordinate efforts to build community among each other to tackle the many inequities that plague our schools and communities. Along with school partners, our community partners are conducting wellness checks and serving as a connector to meet the urgent basic needs of food and other support services for students and families. Partners are working together to provide safe and nurturing spaces that provide both academic and social-emotional supports. And we continue to work with allies across Detroit that are committed to ensuring students and families have reliable access to technology devices and internet access. Additionally, our partnerships with schools and parent-focused organizations provide opportunities for parents to gain knowledge and build their power as the best advocates for their children.

Reimagining together

The health pandemic and racial reckoning has presented an opportunity to turn away from toxic and harmful systemic inequities. We stand with students, educators, parents, and community members to transform learning and school communities into pathways that are culturally responsive, focused on healing, and filled with opportunities for each student to live in their own brilliance. We work with school leaders and educational experts across the city on culturally responsive education through professional learning for educators focused on implicit bias as well as to creating curriculum content that is relevant, engaging, and reflective of our children’s lives and identities. For our students to be engaged in the learning process, they must find their education relevant to their lives, seeing the connections between their learning journey and their world.

Learning is reciprocal. As much as we wish to impart Detroit kids with the knowledge to help them lead the destinies of their choosing, we also want to learn from them their genius. Young people’s perspectives inform our thinking and strategies. This comes in the form of informal and formal/hosted conversations. And, in December 2020, we launched our President’s Youth Council, a two-year paid engagement of a group of Detroit youth representing a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and interests, who will inform their work with their own insights as well as by gathering input from other youth.

You have our hearts

Detroit students, keep showing up each and every day so you can continue to be the leader of your learning journey and your life journey! Detroit educators, I honor and applaud the love you pour into students and the hard work you do for our school communities to make transformational impacts. 

May your hearts and spirits feel the respect and gratitude that we have for all of you!

Carmen Kennedy-Rogers

Strategy lead for K-12 Education. Focus areas include educational instruction and school leadership, educator talent and development, and parent engagement

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