Read our 2021 annual report

Section 2: What’s important to know about Detroit youth today?

What’s important to know about Detroit youth today?

Lessons from our Listening Tour

In September 2021, we welcomed a new leader to The Skillman Foundation, Angelique Power. She came into a new job, a new city and state, asking, What’s important to know about Detroit youth in this moment?

We sat down with hundreds of Detroiters asking this question through a year-long listening tour. We heard about unmet needs, injustices, and broken systems—and yet, every conversation was grounded in hope, aspiration, and determination. How things are today and the history that led up to this was laid plain. But what was made even more clear was the future. Smart minds and bold creators of all ages are hard at work to create a Detroit where young people feel loved and emboldened.

We talked with parents, teachers, and youth providers. And most importantly of all, we talked with Detroit youth.

We heard from Detroiters across the city

Education/Youth Development Practioner (117)       Youth (103)       Community Member (60)

Listening Tour Spotlights

Meet some of the Detroiters from our listening tour.
Swipe to learn more

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit?

"The best thing about Detroit is the people who live here and love our city. Detroit is a community that once had the largest and most thriving Black population in America until our power was systematically dismantled by public and private laws, policies, and programs that cleaved our city into two Detroits. All that we do to grow Detroit should rest on that knowledge."

Donna Givens Davidson
Eastside Community Network, President and CEO

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit youth?

"We aren't a troubled youth group. We would do better if we had better."

Nashae Johnson
High School Student

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit youth?

"I want others to know that more young adults and teens are coming together to share, bounce ideas, and create new programs and possibilities for youth that wish to partake in the change of Detroit."

Jon Scandrick
AmeriCorps Member, Urban Safety Program

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit youth?

"We have the power and courage to be on the front line, to seek the changes we demand, to be vocal about issues we face, and to create noise"

Hafiza Khalique
Activist, Community Organizer, Chair of Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit?

"Detroit is a city that will embrace you with a rich history, culture, and education!"

Orlando T. Bogins
Golightly Education Center, Principal

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit?

"Detroit is a community rich in history, innovation, tenacity, and incredible humans. Detroit will be a city that puts young children and families first!"

Denise Smith
Hope Starts Here Detroit, Implementation Director

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit youth?

"No matter what shape or size we come in, we're always Detroit Strong."

Xavier Bocanegra
Artist & Beatmaker

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit?

"What Up Doe! If you are from Detroit, you will know what that means! If not, it is a community greeting of love and peace that is unique to the culture of who we are: folks who have grit, creativity, and are hardworking"

Nicole Wilson
The Yunion, Executive Director

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit?

"The best thing about Detroit is the people who live here and love our city. Detroit is a community that once had the largest and most thriving Black population in America until our power was systematically dismantled by public and private laws, policies, and programs that cleaved our city into two Detroits. All that we do to grow Detroit should rest on that knowledge."

Donna Givens Davidson
Eastside Community Network, President and CEO

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit youth?

"We aren't a troubled youth group. We would do better if we had better."

Nashae Johnson
High School Student

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit youth?

"I want others to know that more young adults and teens are coming together to share, bounce ideas, and create new programs and possibilities for youth that wish to partake in the change of Detroit."

Jon Scandrick
AmeriCorps Member, Urban Safety Program

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit youth?

"We have the power and courage to be on the front line, to seek the changes we demand, to be vocal about issues we face, and to create noise"

Hafiza Khalique
Activist, Community Organizer, Chair of Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit?

"Detroit is a city that will embrace you with a rich history, culture, and education!"

Orlando T. Bogins
Golightly Education Center, Principal

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit?

"Detroit is a community rich in history, innovation, tenacity, and incredible humans. Detroit will be a city that puts young children and families first!"

Denise Smith
Hope Starts Here Detroit, Implementation Director

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit youth?

"No matter what shape or size we come in, we're always Detroit Strong."

Xavier Bocanegra
Artist & Beatmaker

What is one thing you want people to know about Detroit?

"What Up Doe! If you are from Detroit, you will know what that means! If not, it is a community greeting of love and peace that is unique to the culture of who we are: folks who have grit, creativity, and are hardworking"

Nicole Wilson
The Yunion, Executive Director

How this is changing us

Each perspective shared with us has been transformative. While every voice was unique, a chorus line emerged. We heard loud and clear:

  • Be bold but follow the will of Detroit youth.
  • Young people want to innovate and lead.
  • Work on systemic change and urgent needs.
  • To the detriment of Black and Brown kids, race often determines how much someone is invested in, from general well-being to education to professional opportunities.
  • Care for the well-being of adults who serve kids. They're overwhelmed and under-supported.
  • Foster collaboration but don’t force it.
  • Jumping through hoops for funders hurts nonprofits and their missions.


Where do we go from here? We're changing some of our practices and are sketching out a new framework to guide our grantmaking and changemaking efforts going forward. We're taking this framework back to the community — Detroit youth in particular — to help co-design our work in 2023.

Reflections from group listening sessions

What does Gen Z care about?

What does Gen Z care about?

@kidsmatterhere

Our Youth Council members sound off on issues that are important to them! Next up @MC WolfPack #vote #genz #detroit #youth

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here
@kidsmatterhere

Youth sound off on the issues most important to them! 📢 #fyp #genz #job #career

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here
@kidsmatterhere

Youth council members sound off on the issues important to them! @LoGoat #youth #genz #fyp

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here
@kidsmatterhere

Skillman Youth Council members sound off on issues that are important to them! Starting with @joe.ellee #detroit #youth #genz #fyp

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here
@kidsmatterhere

Young Detroit artist, James, shares how you can make the world a better place 🌎❤️ #genz #detroit #fyp

♬ Angelo - Jay Dachon
@kidsmatterhere

Mohammad Muntakim, Skillman Youth Council member, on how to retain young people in Michigan. #MPC22 #michigan #detroit #youth #genz #policy

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here
@kidsmatterhere

Willyne Smith, Skillman President’s Youth Council member, speaks at Detroit Homecoming about how Gen Z is changing the workplace and prioritizing workers’ needs 🌟 #genz #detroit #youth #work #wellness #detroithomecoming

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here
@kidsmatterhere

Jackson Glover, Council for Michigan Foundations Youth Council member, talks about centering youth in philanthropy at Detroit Homecoming🌟 #youth #detroit #genz #philanthropy #detroithomecoming

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here
@kidsmatterhere

Preston Welborne, Detroit native and Skillman President’s Youth Council member, talks about the importance of investing in the city, staying in the city and being a part of Detroit’s rich history 🌟 #detroit #youth #genz #historyinthemaking #detroithomecoming

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here

Makian Chamblis

Jeremiah Steen

Logan Newman

Joelle Wimberley

James Alexander

Mohammad Muntakin

Willyne Smith

Jackson Glover

Preston Welborne

@kidsmatterhere

Our Youth Council members sound off on issues that are important to them! Next up @MC WolfPack #vote #genz #detroit #youth

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here
@kidsmatterhere

Youth sound off on the issues most important to them! 📢 #fyp #genz #job #career

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here
@kidsmatterhere

Youth council members sound off on the issues important to them! @LoGoat #youth #genz #fyp

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here
@kidsmatterhere

Skillman Youth Council members sound off on issues that are important to them! Starting with @joe.ellee #detroit #youth #genz #fyp

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here
@kidsmatterhere

Young Detroit artist, James, shares how you can make the world a better place 🌎❤️ #genz #detroit #fyp

♬ Angelo - Jay Dachon
@kidsmatterhere

Mohammad Muntakim, Skillman Youth Council member, on how to retain young people in Michigan. #MPC22 #michigan #detroit #youth #genz #policy

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here
@kidsmatterhere

Willyne Smith, Skillman President’s Youth Council member, speaks at Detroit Homecoming about how Gen Z is changing the workplace and prioritizing workers’ needs 🌟 #genz #detroit #youth #work #wellness #detroithomecoming

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here
@kidsmatterhere

Jackson Glover, Council for Michigan Foundations Youth Council member, talks about centering youth in philanthropy at Detroit Homecoming🌟 #youth #detroit #genz #philanthropy #detroithomecoming

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here
@kidsmatterhere

Preston Welborne, Detroit native and Skillman President’s Youth Council member, talks about the importance of investing in the city, staying in the city and being a part of Detroit’s rich history 🌟 #detroit #youth #genz #historyinthemaking #detroithomecoming

♬ original sound - Kids Matter Here

Makian Chamblis

Jeremiah Steen

Logan Newman

Joelle Wimberley

James Alexander

Mohammad Muntakin

Willyne Smith

Jackson Glover

Preston Welborne

Who is Gen Z?

More voices of young Detroiters

More voices of young Detroiters

Making History at Mackinac

Making History at Mackinac

Video

President's Youth Council members reflect on their journey advocating for Detroit youth, from organizing a youth forum in the city to bringing their collective ideas to the Mackinac Policy Conference - a gathering of Michigan's elite.

President's Youth Council members, Logan Newman, Jeremiah Steen, and Mohammad Muntakim

Let's Talk: School in 2021 & Beyond

Let's Talk: School in 2021 & Beyond

Video

Detroit students discuss what’s most important for the upcoming school year and the future of school.

Lamont Satchel, Jr. (class of 2021 Detroit graduate) moderated a conversation with Mathias Neloms (middle school student), Nadia Jahan, and Willyne Smith (rising seniors)

Let's Talk: What's Hope Got to do With It?

Let's Talk: What's Hope Got to do With It?

Video

The Skillman Foundation conducted a survey in 2020 to gauge how hopeful and in control Detroit youth feel about their future.

Dr. Andrea Anderson, former director of evaluation, learning & impact for The Skillman Foundation, and a panel of young people—Daren Anderson, Grant Johnson, and Isabelle Maynard

Detroit youth have a podcast and its awesome.

Detroit youth have a podcast and its awesome.

Podcast

Listen to the Vaulted Youth Podcast

The Vaulted Youth Podcast is led by youth fellows who are trained to research, produce, engineer, and host. Each fellow is mentored by an experienced journalist and introduced to local political, philanthropic, and nonprofit leaders.