Introducing The Skillman Visionary Awards

The missing piece (spoiler alert: it’s youth)

More often than not, getting a fresh take on something means going to a trusted source. For Life Remodeled, that trusted source is Detroit youth.

Life Remodeled youth participate in the Gen Z Design session and chat with Director of Youth and Community Engagement, Stepha’N Quicksey.

With a dedicated focus on the intentional and equitable revitalization of Detroit neighborhoods, Life Remodeled is working to provide Detroiters with innovative spaces for job opportunities, community resources, and youth programs. Their current labor of love is the Durfee Innovation Society, a modern community center in Detroit. Described as a “one-stop hub for opportunity”, the building and its tenants, composed of 39 impact-driven organizations, strive to offer meaningful resources for community members. But Durfee Innovation Society can’t do it alone. If they’re missing something, they need youth to tell them.

Brandi Haggins, director of Durfee Innovation Society, Stepha’N Quicksey, director of Youth and Community Engagement, and Chris Lambert, founder and CEO, met with some of metro-Detroit’s youth leaders to discuss how they could better engage with the city’s youth. The conversation was part of the “Gen Z Design Sessions”, a youth-led advisory series designed to amplify youth voices in business spaces. The sessions are organized by The Skillman Foundation and facilitated by Jeremiah Steen.

Lead with the youth in mind

This organization knows it takes a village to serve a community, so when Life Remodeled had questions about how they could be more effective in serving Detroit youth and their communities, they knew Generation Zers in Detroit were the right people to ask.

Gen Z strategist, Cathline Ali, shares her input with Life Remodeled staff.

The conversation began with Life Remodeled outlining their goals – one of which being their commitment to making Durfee Elementary-Middle School the most improved Detroit Public Community School District school by 2025. To measure this goal, Life Remodeled uses data and test scores from the state’s M-STEP Assessment as a metric for school improvement in math proficiency, reading proficiency, and attendance that can be compared to other K-8 DPSCD schools.

With all initiatives Life Remodeled has under its roof, the Gen Z strategists saw an opportunity to deepen their measures of success. “It’s interesting that the metric for success for school improvement is test scores, but the inputs and programming for how they get [to improving test scores] are super holistic – art, design, etc. I think intuitively we understand the two are connected, but how are they connected and how can we measure improvement through other areas?” said Jelani Stowers.  

The session advisors also encouraged Life Remodeled to focus on goals held by the youth. One area concerning students is the lack of supervised transportation for younger children.

Other suggestions presented by the youth included:

  • Implement a report card-based metric for success, which shows a more holistic picture of a student’s performance than standardized test scores
  • Contact school officials to speak with students and assess need for transportation to programs in the Durfee Innovation Society
Graphic notes by Jasmin Smith

The Skillman Foundation will be here to stand side by side with youth as they amplify their voices and impact change. Follow the Gen Z Design Sessions on

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