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Reviving Detroit: 4 Arenas Where Nonprofits Can Act to Design a New Future


The classic action-comedy Beverly Hills Cop was showing on TV this past week. In it, Eddie Murphy plays a Detroit police detective who follows a murder suspect to the West Coast. The opening 10 or 15 minutes includes a chase scene through Detroit. The city is full of vacant buildings and land—and the 1984 film showed a better-looking Detroit than you’ll find today. Axel Foley’s Detroit declared bankruptcy late last week—the largest city ever to do so—ending a fall decades in the making.

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Cuts in food assistance start today, impacting vulnerable children nationwide


Beginning today, nearly 47 million people, including 22 million children nationwide, will see their food assistance benefits cut, when a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) expires.

The reduction stems from the fact that a modest boost in benefits included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has now ended. While SNAP enrollment growth has slowed this year, national enrollment remains high because many families continue to face a job market that remains weak and other hardships resulting from a slow economic recovery.

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How Are The Children? A Dialogue for Families

There are more than 487,000 children under the age of 18 currently living in Wayne County. More than half of these children live in families with incomes below the Federal Poverty Level. This is one of many startling statistics that Great Start Collaborative shared with the public in their April 2013 children’s wellbeing report titled, “How Are the Children.”

The reality is clear, that children living within Wayne county and the entire state of Michigan, need the support of community organizations, their own families, educational & political systems, and advocacy organizations and community members alike, if they are to overcome the challenges that accompany poverty.

To this end, The Children’s Center, Wayne County Great Start Collaborative, Michigan’s Children, and the Michigan League for Public Policy are coming together to facilitate a community discussion entitled, “How are the Children:” A Dialogue for Families. In addition to hearing from four Child Policy experts, participants will be encouraged to voice their concerns regarding collaborative solutions to addressing the many issues that accompany poverty, children experiencing trauma and behavioral health challenges, disparities in healthcare, education, and other concerns.

“How Are the Children:” A Dialogue for Families will be held at the Children’s Center Head Start Academy at 19900 Evergreen Rd. in Detroit on October 17th, from 6-7:30 PM. The dialogue will feature the following presenters:
  • Dr. Carolynn Rowland; City of Detroit -- Dept. of Health and Wellness Promotion
  • Renell Weathers; Michigan League for Public Policy -- State Budget Priorities & Children’s Issues
  • Mina Hong; Michigan’s Children -- Engaging in the Elections Process
  • Nicole Wells Stallworth; The Children’s Center -- Engaging Community & Elected Leaders
    toward Making a Difference.
A large part of our mission at The Children's Center is to help families learn how to advocate for themselves. We are excited about this important collaborative work with the Wayne County Great Start Collaborative led by Toni Hartke, The Michigan League for Public Policy, and Michigan’s Children who have been in the trenches of working with communities and families on behalf of what’s in the best interests of children”, explained Debora Matthews, Children's Center CEO.

Parents, families, city residents, senior citizens, educators, and child advocates are encouraged to attend and learn more about how we can collaboratively improve the quality of life for children living within our region. We believe every child should be offered the opportunity to reach their fullest potential”, added Nicole Wells Stallworth, Director of Community Engagement & Government Affairs at The Children’s Center.

For questions, contact Nicole Wells Stallworth at nwells@childrensctr.net OR Susan Hooks-Brown, Wayne County Great Start Collaborative Community Organizer at shooks-brown@swsol.org

Join the discussion on Twitter! hashtag #HowAreTheChildren

About The Children’s Center
Founded in 1929 by former Detroit Mayor and United States Senator James Couzens as one of the first child guidance centers in the United States, The Children’s Center has grown to be the Michigan child and family agency offering the largest number of specialized therapy programs for at-risk children and youth.

To learn more about The Children’s Center, visit: www.thechildrenscenter.com.

About Great Start
Great Start Collaborative-Wayne is a non-profit organization comprised of over 60 community organizations and individuals whose vision is A Great Start for Every Child in Wayne County, safe, healthy, and ready to succeed in school and life.

Their mission is to engage the entire community to assure a coordinated system of services and resources are available to assist Wayne County families in providing a great start for their children from prenatal to age 8. 

Lake County's "promise" to make college affordable for low-income families


College is expensive. For some families, it’s prohibitively expensive. Several school districts are trying to follow the Kalamazoo Promise model by offering students money to help cover tuition costs, including one such "promise" in rural northern Michigan's Lake County.

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Summer + Mittenfest = S'Mittenfest!

Over the last seven years, Ypsilanti’s end-of-year music festival Mittenfest has grown into a five-day extravaganza of Michigan-based artists. Held at Woodruff’s Bar in Depot Town, Ypsilanti, Mittenfest has seen performances by acts like Frontier Ruckus, Shigeto, and Passalacqua as well as dozens of up-and-coming performers. The festival is a fundraiser for 826michigan, a Washtenaw County-based organization providing free creative writing and tutoring services to students aged 6-18. To celebrate 826michigan’s recent expansion into Detroit, the nonprofit will hold a summer version of Mittenfest at the Magic Stick on July 20.
S’Mittenfest (Summer + Mittenfest) will feature twenty-one acts including Drunken Barn Dance, Santa Monica Swim and Dive Club, and Young Punk. It will be held on Saturday, July 20, at Detroit’s legendary Magic Stick. Admission is $10 and available only at the door; proceeds benefit 826michigan’s free programs for students aged 6-18.
Established in Ann Arbor in 2005, 826michigan serves 2,500 youth aged 6-18 with a wide variety of educational and artistic programs. In October 2012, the organization announced that it would launch programs in Detroit, thanks to a launching grant from the DTE Energy Foundation. 826michigan now serves three Detroit schools with In-School Residencies, in which volunteers are organized on a continual basis to assist teachers in overcrowded classrooms and work one-on-one with students who need extra attention. This summer, 826michigan will offer free creative writing workshops in Clark Park, at the Franklin Wright Settlements, and at the Campbell Branch of the Detroit Public Library.
“Expanding to Detroit was a dream of ours for a very long time,” says 826michigan Executive Director Amanda Uhle. “And now it’s happening. Every week, we’re reaching forty-five Detroit students with one-on-one attention and support provided by caring volunteers, and that number is set to go up dramatically this summer as we begin to offer Drop-in Writing times at three locations in the city.
“For us, the truly great thing about Mittenfest is getting to celebrate with the people of Ypsilanti, where we’ve worked since we first began. We’re proud to call ourselves part of the Ypsilanti community. We know we are new in Detroit, but we’re committed to our work there and to building more and better partnerships with other nonprofits, schools, businesses, and individuals. S’Mittenfest is a party and we are inviting the people of Detroit, who have already shown us an incredibly warm welcome. We can’t wait to celebrate Michigan music and Michigan people on July 20!”
For more information about 826michigan and its volunteer-driven programs serving 2,500 youth in Southeast Michigan, please visit www.826michigan.org or call (734) 761-3463. To learn more about S’Mittenfest, please visit www.mittenfest.org.
The full line-up includes:
The Anonymous
Breezee One
The Campanellis
Caveman Woodman
Clear Soul Forces
Jah Connery
Deadbeat Beat
Drunken barn dance
In Fact
James Linck
The Kickstand Band
Pewter Cub
Red Pill
Santa Monica Swim & Dive Club
Silent Lions
Timothy Monger State Park
Twine Time
The Hand in the Ocean
Young Punk
826michigan is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students aged six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around our belief that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.  For more information, visit www.826michigan.org.

Riding the bus in hopes of a better education


"School is almost out for summer! For some students, that means camp. For others, it means time to get a job. For the three high school sophomores you’re about to meet, it means a break - not just from school, but from riding the bus.

'Every day, the girls leave their homes in the struggling Detroit neighborhood of Brightmoor and hop on two city buses and one yellow bus to get to New Tech High School in Dearborn Heights. Their names are Shaqueria (Shay) Harris-Bay, Navia Daniel and Tanesha George, and they captured their morning trip in an audio diary for our State of Opportunity project."

Read more and listen to the podcast.

What does a truly diverse high school sound like?


A few weeks ago I took the State of Opportunity storytelling booth to J.W. Sexton High School in Lansing. 

The school is a sand-colored art deco masterpiece. There are three floors, intricate stone work inside and out, and an auditorium that could easily host a symphony from any of Michigan's large cities along with its audience.

Click to hear the full story

Go Here: Excellent Schools Detroit Releases Citywide List of Top 20 K-12 Schools

Excellent Schools Detroit today released its list of the top-performing kindergarten through eighth-grade schools, recommending parents send their children to these schools this coming school year. Excellent Schools Detroit also released the eight schools at the bottom of the barrel that parents should avoid. These rankings are based only on this year’s and year- over-year performance on the Michigan standardized test, the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP).

School leaders from 181 Detroit schools opted into Excellent Schools Detroit’s school quality review this year, including all of Detroit Public Schools, all Education Achievement Authority schools, 56 charters and 15 private and parochial schools. As that additional data is gathered from the school quality review, both the top and bottom lists will be updated.

To determine these rankings, Excellent Schools Detroit reviewed this year’s MEAP performance and year over year MEAP performance of 126 kindergarten through eighth-grade schools. The 31 new or turnaround kindergarten through eighth-grade schools in Detroit were not included in the analysis, as the study considered performance changes over time. Excellent Schools Detroit will release similar results for high school performance later this spring.

“In order for the education of our children to move forward in Detroit, we need to leave some schools behind. If your child is in one of these bottom eight schools, you should move them to one of the top 20,” said Dan Varner, CEO of Excellent Schools Detroit. “Excellent Schools Detroit is committed to keeping our community informed about the quality of Detroit’s schools so that more kids go to better schools.”

Detroiters should note that this year 88% of Detroit’s kindergarten through eighth-grade schools schools showed improvement from last year. Twelve of the top performers are operated by DPS, seven are charter schools and one private school are amongst the top performers. Thirkell Elementary School, a general admission DPS school, was the top performer, citywide. All of these schools also participated in Excellent Schools Detroit’s school quality review process.

"Our young people are the future and we want them to attend the highest quality schools," said Tonya Allen, COO of The Skillman Foundation. "Central to this is making sure that our neighborhoods are thriving and full of great educational opportunities like those found in the top 20 list for kindergarten-through-eighth-grades released by Excellent Schools Detroit." Allen will become CEO of The Skillman Foundation in July.

Sharlonda Buckman, CEO of Detroit Parent Network agrees, stating “parents deserve transparency in the great or poor performance of schools as they make one of the most important decisions they are faced with each year: "where do I send my kids to school"? The Excellent Schools Detroit scorecard provides a tool to help parents in the process; however, as we lift up the best performing schools, we recognize that for some parents, these high- performing schools are a distant dream because transportation and safety issues remain a barrier.”

Buckman also states “The scorecard is a great start and simultaneous to this, we must ask more of the collective community to continue the fight for more high quality schools and eliminate the barriers that cripple real choice.”

Go here: Top 20 best-performing K-8 schools in Detroit

Central Detroit
-  Thirkell Elementary School
-  Davison Elementary School

-  Detroit Edison Public School Academy
-  University Prep Academy Middle School
-  University Prep Academy Elementary Mark Murray
-  University Prep Science and Math
-  Burton International School
-  Chrysler Elementary School
-  Detroit Merit Charter Academy

East Detroit
- Garvey Academy

Northeast Detroit
-  Oakland International Academy K-8
-  Cornerstone Nevada Primary and Middle School

Northwest Detroit
-  Pasteur Elementary School
-  Vernor Elementary School
-  Bates Academy

Southwest Detroit
-  Clippert Academy
-  Maybury Elementary School

West Detroit
-  Detroit Premier Academy
-  Charles Wright School
-  Dixon Elementary School

“The Detroit community needs to know which schools are not delivering good results for our children,” said Varner. “Parents and guardians with children in any of the bottom schools should plan to send their kids somewhere else next school year.” Varner recommends those parents consider any of the schools on the top 20 list.

Don’t go here: Eight worst-performing K-8 schools in Detroit

Central Detroit
- Allen Academy

- Voyageur Academy

East Detroit
-  Detroit Enterprise Academy
-  Commonwealth Community Development Authority

Southwest Detroit
-  Universal Academy
-  Pierre Toussaint Academy

West Detroit
-  Center for Literacy and Creativity
-  Michigan Technical Academy Elementary

In July, Excellent Schools Detroit will release its 2013 scorecard, ranking all schools attended by Detroit children, including early learning and development programs, kindergarten through eighth-grades and high schools. All schools graded as an “A” will meet the Excellent Schools Detroit standard of an excellent school: one that has 90% of its students on track to graduate on time, 90% of those students attending a quality post-secondary program and 90% of those entering that program without any need for remediation.

Excellent Schools Detroit cultivates the conditions to ensure that every Detroit child, cradle to career, is in an excellent school by 2020. Excellent Schools Detroit was formed in 2010 by partners from philanthropic, civic, business, nonprofit and education organizations. More information can be found at excellentschoolsdetroit.org. Last year’s scorecard is available at scorecard.excellentschoolsdetroit.org

Michigan's 13,000 'redshirt' kindergartners


Kindergarten classes in Escanaba and Dearborn are quite similar, with 5-year-olds wiggling in their chairs and brightly-colored artwork lining the walls. But when children walked out of those classrooms in the spring of 2011, they faced different futures.

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Michigan, DPS make gains in graduation rates


"Michigan and the state's largest school district, Detroit Public Schools, recorded gains last year in the percentage of students graduating within four years, according to data released Wednesday.

'Statewide, graduation rates rose nearly 2 percentage points last year to 76.2 percent in Michigan's four-year high schools in the numbers issued by the Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information.

'DPS gained even more, hiking its graduation rate for 2012 to 64.7 percent from 59.7 percent in 2011."

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USDA grant to help ramp up local foods in school districts

The Michigan Land Use Institute has long been a big backer of the idea that local food should be served in local schools. It seems that the USDA agrees with the organization, as they just gave them a two-year, $100,000 grand to help expand the local Farm to School program.

The grant allows MLUI to partner with eight local districts and area farmers to invest in cold storage and processing equipment to scale up local food procurement by the schools. It also allows MLUI to expand the farm to school activities that it currently operates in six schools.

The grant is going to make it easier for local schools to serve fruits and vegetables that are produced by local farmer across northern Michigan. The result will help local agriculture while teaching kids the importance of local food and healthy eating habits.

Additionally, food service directors have identified a need for washed, dried and bagged salad greens and cut vegetables, but the many farms in the region that typically grow vegetables don’t have the capacity or infrastructure to meet the needs of the region’s schools. The grant will help secure new, centrally located equipment for commercial-scale preparation, making it possible and more cost-effective for growers to scale up vegetable production to benefit schools.

The MLUI grant is one of 68 awarded by the USDA to organizations in 37 states and Washington, D.C., to connect schools with local agricultural producers. These are the first USDA Farm to School grants.

Writer: Sam Eggleston
Source: Michigan Land Use Institute

Five things to know about early childhood brain development

"There has been an explosion of research over the past decade that shows how important the first few years of a child’s life are in terms of brain development. To help us make sense of how those early experience can shape a child’s brain, we called up Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University."

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U-M researchers to study 'food security' across Michigan

"Researchers at the School of Natural Resources and Environment are leading a five-year, $4 million study of disparities in access to healthy food across the state.

'The researchers will interview residents and study data in 18 small to mid-sized cities to better understand the factors affecting 'food security,' a socioeconomic term that defines easy access to safe and healthy food."

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ACLU attorneys, state agree to Dec. 5. hearing in Right to Read lawsuit

"The ACLU of Michigan has until Dec. 5 to investigate whether the Highland Park School District is complying with a state law that requires individual intervention for students who aren’t reading at grade level.

'It’s part of a groundbreaking, class action “Right to Read” lawsuit the ACLU of Michigan has filed against the district and state."

Read more.

YMCA charter school stresses leadership and innovation

"Jataya is among the first students at a new K-5 charter school, Detroit Innovation Academy, opened last month by the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit through its Y Education Services charter management organization.

'Acclimating kindergarteners to technology is part of the curriculum, along with the expectation that each of the 153 students will graduate and attend college."

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