Ordinary heroes do extraordinary things for Detroit kids. Tenacious for the D. Annual Report

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1 10 Ordinary heroes do extraordinary things for Detroit kids Tenacious for the D Annual Report F O U N D A T I O N

2 A voice for Detroit

3 children since 1960

4 Inside» Pages 4 7» Introduction Pages 8 27» Profiles Page 8» Aswan Almaktary She shows a particular joy when working with youth from the neighborhood. Sonia Harb, ACCESS Page 10» Anita Ashford She s very willing to help make sure we can make positive things happen in the Osborn community. Quincy Jones, Osborn Neighborhood Alliance Page 12» Anthony Benavides He is a true testament to what a natural leader can become. Maria Salinas, Congress of Communities Page 14» Susan Hooks-Brown She s a relationship connector. She loves building relationships. Kathy Tuggle, Angel Wings Child Care Page 16» Monica Evans She shares her personal story so youth who are victims of tragic circumstances are able to see that successful outcomes are possible from humble beginnings. Grenae Dudley, The Youth Connection, Inc. 2

5 Page 18» Jessie Kilgore Jessie is tenacious, tender hearted, and deeply committed in his work with children, families, and the community. He is a turbo-force for Good Schools, Good Neighborhoods, and communities in the D. Barbara Markle, assistant dean for K-12 Outreach in the College of Education Page 20» Pat Miller If you looked inside her, there would certainly be a lot of the city in her. Larry Gant, U-M School of Social Work Page 22» Bill O Brien Bill is a leader not because of his role in an organization or any positional authority, but because his attitudes, beliefs, and values drive him to generously give the best of himself and invite the best from others. Christine Doby, program officer, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Page 24» Dan Varner He looks at, listens, studies, then takes decisive action to improve the lives of Detroiters, especially the children. Mike Flanagan, Michigan Department of Education Page 26» Dawn Wilson She is passionate about and holds herself and others accountable for what happens to kids in the city. Lisa Leverette, Prevention Network Pages 28 31» Meet three tenacious youth, the future leaders of Detroit Pages 32-35» News briefs Pages 36» Finances Page 36» Grant summary Page 38» How to apply Page 39» History Page 40» Staff 3

6 The Power of Making a difference for Detroit Did you have a caring adult in your life as a child? Maybe it was a baseball coach, or a youth pastor at your church. Maybe it was the high school newspaper advisor, or the manager at the fast food restaurant where you worked part-time. Maybe it was a neighbor, a teacher or a relative. Or if you were lucky, maybe you had many of those types of adults in your life, those who cosigned on your dreams and committed to seeing you through to a better future. Many children find the odds stacked against them, though especially kids born into disadvantaged households, who don t have a strong nucleus of caring adults around them. The results of that lack of early support can be devastating, and kids grow up believing their futures are bleak and predestined. They drop out of school, turn to illegal activity or gangs, get pregnant, disconnect, and disengage. I believe the presence or lack of presence of a caring adult is one of the things that make a big difference in whether or not children become successful in life, said Skillman 4

7 Foundation President & CEO Carol Goss, who announced she will retire at the end of Just knowing someone cares enough to spend their time or attention on you can be a game changer and a life saver. In my time at the Skillman Foundation all of us here have worked extremely hard to help change the odds for all Detroit kids. The Kids Matter Here movement, which took root during the Goss presidency, is spreading across the city. In this publication, we profile 10 Detroiters whose work is all about changing the odds for Detroit children. For them, Kids Matter Here is a calling they answer to 365 days a year. MEET THE HEROES In these pages, you ll meet the tenacious 10, a group that represents a much larger movement of adults springing into action in neighborhoods and schools across Detroit. For each person we profiled, there are countless others doing equally fine work dedicated to kids. There are those who work mostly behind the scenes, like Pat Miller (page 20), a social worker from the University of Michigan Technical Assistance Center, and Susan Hooks-Brown (Page 14), who helps directors at the city s daycare centers and preschools understand how to run quality early education programs. There are heroes who walk alongside kids, like Aswan Almaktary (Page 8), a community activist who works with youth in the Chadsey- Condon neighborhood, and Monica Evans (Page 16), a Detroit police officer who works to bring restorative practices to troubled youth in schools and on the streets. There are leaders organizing change in their communities, like Dawn Wilson, (Page 26), a Brightmoor resident and a professional clown who fights for her neighborhood s future by serving on the Brightmoor Alliance board and the Community Connections Small Grants panel, and Anita Ashford (page 10), a DTE employee who serves on the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance board. There are education influencers such as Jessie Kilgore (Page 18), who works to bring support to education reform through the work of the Good Schools Resource Center-Detroit, and Dan Varner (Page 24), who runs Excellent Schools Detroit, and is a man on a mission to push Detroit high school graduation rates to 90 percent. There are stubborn child advocates, who couldn t imagine living or working anywhere other than Detroit, such as Anthony Benavides (Page 12), whose love of his Southwest Detroit neighborhood pushed him to help save it by starting the Clark Park Coalition, and Bill O Brien (Page 22), who runs the Harriet Tubman Center, which trains young people to be community organizers. Equally inspiring are the stories of the future leaders. These are the young voices of three teens from Detroit neighborhoods, young people already active in transforming outcomes for themselves and their peers. Meet them on page 28. 5

8 A new sense of urgency The leaders profiled in this annual report, each in their own way, have played a crucial role in the Foundation s push to transform our city for Detroit children. In December 2012, Carol Goss announced that she would retire at the end of On the same day, the Foundation s Board of Trustees announced Tonya Allen, the Foundation s chief operating officer and Carol s right hand, as the next Foundation president. Allen, the architect of the Foundation s Good Neighborhoods work, has been with the Foundation since Tonya has earned the respect and support of the Board to take on the role of CEO of the Foundation through her thoughtful work for children, her passion for making a difference in their lives, and her skill in program development, execution, management and evaluation, said Board Chair Lizabeth Ardisana. The leadership transition announcement came amid another big change. In October 2012, the Foundation began a comprehensive strategic planning phase, its first since It was a chance to pause, consider the successes and opportunities of the last seven years, and to examine the external factors at work that are swiftly changing Detroit. 6

9 Building on the success of the Good Schools and Good Neighborhoods platforms, the new strategic plan, announced in the spring of 2013, introduced a refined focus and a results-oriented way of organizing the work, centered on driving up meaningful graduation rates in Detroit, so that Detroit kids are prepared for college, careers and life. The plan includes six investment areas community leadership, education, neighborhoods, safety, social innovation, and youth development. It intends to break down previously constructed silos of work and engage all aspects of the Foundation s initiatives into one voice and one vision. We are excited about the next generation of the Foundation s work, Ardisana said. Our plan builds on Carol Goss s legacy at the Foundation, and capitalizes on Tonya s determination to utilize new strategies to see that legacy fulfilled. Allen, determined as ever, knows the Foundation can t get there alone. The vision requires other caring adults, leaders and investors at every turn. Children can t just be Skillman s business, Allen said, and they can t just be the school s business. They have to be our community s business. Our success is dependent on how they do. We want a Detroit where children grow up ready to seriously thrive as adults, Allen added. A Detroit where, Kids Matter Here, our mantra over the past several years, becomes the mantra for Detroiters everywhere. Cody Rouge Family Day at Don Bosco Hall, St. Suzanne s Church. Left: DeShari Godbott, 9, Paige Godbott, 5, and Harold James, 8, bond in Brenda Scott Academy s library while making Easter cards and other crafts during an Osborn neighborhood update meeting in April

10 Aswan Almaktary ACCESS Hamtramck Office Manager The word jiran means neighbors in Arabic. And so it makes a fitting name for the community project Aswan Almaktary ran in the Chadsey Condon neighborhood, one of the Good Neighborhoods. The goal of JIRAN which stands for Join In to Revitalize Arab American Neighborhoods is to empower the Arab American population to get connected and create a safer, more vibrant community for its youth. Before the program began, Almaktary, who also serves on the board of the Chadsey Condon Community Congress and works for ACCESS, said most of the Arabic people in that area were isolated. They didn t comingle with the African American or Latino populations near their neighborhood. They don t cross the borders because they think everything is bad happening outside of their borders. That s what I saw, that parents were afraid to let their kids go to the other side. That fear lead to a disconnected community and disengaged youth. Almaktary said through JIRAN, that s changed. Parents now see her at events and are comfortable allowing their teenagers to roam a bit further from home. The youth are taking ownership of their neighborhood, beautifying it through clean-ups and taking part in community events. You have to first build trust with the people, Almaktary said. This comes naturally to Almaktary, who was a teacher in her home country of Yemen and has a genuine passion for youth. She isn t in the classroom now but considers all the youth she meets in Chadsey Condon to be her students. The lessons she wants to leave with them are life ones that their voices matter, that they can use their skills to better the world and that breaking through barriers, real or perceived, is important. 8

11 Do you consider yourself a leader for Detroit kids? I see my role as helping the youth see what is happening around them, see how to benefit from the different projects and how to impact themselves and their community, and have the feeling that they can help a whole community while they are improving themselves. What s your personal mission driving you to do this work? The mission is to see the youth as a vibrant force in their community. I always tell them that they are not representing themselves only, it s a whole community. Youth who are isolated because of language barrier, or fear of the unknown, that s preventing youth to be part of their community. I want to see youth cross neighborhoods and share in activities in their community. Do you see a network of caring adults with a child-first agenda beginning to grow in Chadsey Condon? When I started as coordinator of JIRAN, I was worried because I heard about Southwest Detroit [and] I didn t know if I was going to find these amazing people. I consider them just leaders, because they lead this initative. They care about these youth. I don t see it as a job for these people who are working in Southwest Detroit. When I go to a meeting and I see these people, they re like a family who care about youth and each other. And they re crossing the borders and coming to us. By Krista Jahnke Krista Jahnke is a communications officer at the Skillman Foundation. Follow her on You have to first build trust with the people. 9

12 Anita Ashford Continuous Improvement Expert, DTE, and former Board Member, Osborn Neighborhood Alliance So nobody s going to tell me that Detroit is bad, that the kids can t be saved. That is not true. Anita Ashford, who worked as a vice president and continuous improvement expert for DTE, slides into an office at the Matrix Center and bellows out a jovial, Hey there, how you doing? to everyone within earshot. It s the kind of greeting that makes it clear that despite her lofty title, she s a familiar face at the human services agency s home in the Osborn neighborhood in northwest Detroit. While Ashford worked as the neighborhood s human connection to the vast energy company the person who sat at kitchen tables with folks having trouble with their heating bills she also served equally as an advocate for children through The Skillman Foundation s Good Neighborhoods work. As a board member on the Osborn Neighorhood Alliance from its inception until 2012, Ashford spent extra hours each week working to make the neighborhood a better place for children to grow up. She also got involved with the Detroit Youth Employment Consortium, which connects kids to summer job experiences and employers to talented youth. Finally, she served on the self-governing board at Brenda Scott Middle School, where she ensured students get connected to supports throughout the neighborhood. As a corporate champion, she connects fellow DTE employees to opportunities to giveback in the Osborn community, whether during one-time clean up events or through long-term partnerships with ONA. 10

13 What s your personal mission when it comes to kids in Detroit? It s just whatever I can do with my talents that I ve been blessed with. I have to try and give that to them. Whether it s a leadership capacity, whether it s funding, programs helping with that, and No. 1 is education. Do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the future for kids in Detroit? There s so much potential here, so many gems that need to be brought out. It s just attention they re hollering and screaming. I just think we need that patience and perseverance to try and beat it back. That s it. And I know I m not dreaming, because there are too many successful things that I ve seen come to fruition. So nobody s going to tell me that Detroit is bad, that the kids can t be saved. That is not true. What inspires you to keep going? I wake up every day, and I read the newspapers, I see kids driving up and down the street, I talk to people. There s always something that comes at you that you can say, You know what, well, I can make a difference. By Krista Jahnke 11

14 Anthony Benavides loves Detroit s Mexicantown. He s lived there his entire life and has no intention of leaving. The 53-year-old is so deeply committed to his community that in 1983, when the Clark Park Recreation Center closed, Benavides and neighborhood residents came together to save the 30-acre park. We went to the city and told them, Give us the keys, we ll keep it open. Benavides said. If the center would have stayed closed, it would have definitely been torched or stripped. The neighborhood group decided to form the Clark Park Coalition. Benavides and his fellow volunteers began working to rid the park of drug dealers. They cleaned the park of needles, broken glass and garbage. But his greatest accomplishment was to ensure the children of Southwest Detroit have a nurturing safe haven where they can thrive. Under his watch, the Clark Park Coalition has done more than merely reopen the center. They ve expanded programming and now have year-round sports for kids, including hockey, ice skating, baseball, softball, soccer, tennis, lacrosse and golf. Clark Park is more than just a place where kids go play. It s like our town square, Benavides said. This park is really important to the community. This is where 12

15 Anthony Benavides Director, Clark Park Coalition they have their festivals and Quinceañeras. In 2011, Benavides implemented an educational component to the center s programming. Students from local high schools can now come to Clark Park Recreation Center and take college ACT prep classes with an instructor. Benavides takes a lot of pride in his work. He loves giving the kids of Southwest Detroit a positive place to go and be able to express themselves. Watching the kids play makes me feel good, Benavides said. There is a field of dreams out here. What do you wish people knew about the kids you work with? They persevere. They have very little, and they make it work. And they are always willing to try. Kids are resilient. They re hard working. They just need a chance. What needs to change to make life better for Detroit s kids? More people to volunteer, more people to come out and support a child. Mentor and read to a child. Throw a ball to a child while they re outside. Just more mentorships, more one on one. How has The Skillman Foundation helped you advance your work? Skillman helped us hire people. We were able to hire a bookkeeper. We were able to hire a business manager. The end result is we get to be more sustainable. We are also able to hire 10 kids during the summer to run programming, and they keep the park clean. We also hire 10 kids in the winter time. Those are our Learn to Skate instructors. Watching the kids play makes me feel good. There is a field of dreams out here. By Martina Guzman Martina Guzman is a community reporter for WDET in Detroit. Follow her on 13

16 Susan Hooks- Brown Community Organizer, Southwest Solutions Susan Hooks-Brown describes herself as a connector, a relationship builder. She finds early childcare centers throughout Detroit that want to be known for quality but don t know how to get there. Through her role as a community organizer focused on early childhood education at Southwest Solutions, she connects the dots for them, helping directors learn about the QRIS program the Quality-Rating Improvement System that launched in Detroit and will soon go statewide and other resources like grants, trainings and technical programs that can help them cut costs and focus more on quality childcare. She also runs workshops that help caregivers fill training hours and advance their understanding. In Hooks-Brown s words: I m the forerunner that says, Let s get it done, let s make it happen, this is a good thing for the kids. No doubt, study after study 14

17 show the importance for quality early childcare in future outcomes for children, and children living in poverty are often the ones without access to those environments. We want to make sure those children are exposed to those kinds of rigor, that kind of vocabulary, that kind of exploration, all those kind of things that will make them ready for school. Do you think of yourself as a leader for Detroit kids? I am really a behind the scenes the person I m really humbled by that. I do what I do with a passion, because I love to do it. What drives you, inspires you, pushes you to keep going? That I want our children to succeed. My mantra is, it doesn t matter what social-economical status you are, if you believe that your children can succeed, no matter what the challenges we all have them but if you believe and put the effort in, it s doable. It can be done. That s what drives me... What s good for a child of affluence is good for a child of poverty. It s good for all kids, and I want us to get away from children at risk. It s good for all kids. How would you sum up childhood for Detroit in one word? Challenging. But doable. It s a lot of things happening in Detroit. I guess it s about community. If I can drop your child off, or if your child could come to my house, or my child outgrew his uniform, but you need one, we can make it happen. By Krista Jahnke I do what I do with a passion, because I love to do it. 15

18 Monica Evans Police Officer, City of Detroit Monica Evans is no stranger to violence. A Detroit police officer assigned to the division of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, she moved to Detroit as a young teen. Growing up, she was a victim of child molestation. Her sister was murdered. And her brother served time for murder. Evans says she believes people with a background like hers go one of two ways. Hurt people either hurt people, or they go completely the other way, like me. She s not kidding. Evans is on the coordinating team that operates the Safe Routes to School, a part of the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. Along with Skillman Foundation Program Officer Henry McClendon, Evans has taken a movement called Restorative Practices (RP) and helped make it a presence throughout Detroit schools and law enforcement. Instead of punishing kids who break rules or even people who break the law RP focuses on making relationships right through restorative circles. In April 2011, when Safe Passages began doing truancy sweeps, instead of ticketing youth, they found them wraparound services and conducted circles to try and solve the needs of the child and his or her family. If they needed tutoring or clothes or help with bullying, whatever the case may be, operation Safe Passages is a holistic approach to keeping them in school, Evans said. In her personal life, Evans mothers eight children, only three of which are biological. My mom used to say I bring home stray animals. Now she says I bring home stray kids. I don t want to see anyone else go through some of the things that I went through. How has The Skillman Foundation helped you advance this work? It s their enthusiasm. They re passionate about this. You can tell that they have a true heart for the community, and it really shows. Do you see a brighter future coming for Detroit s children? Are you an optimist or pessimist? Oh, the cup is always half full. Almost to a fault, I m always optimistic. It s even sometimes offensive 16

19 to people. I m like, Don t tell me that this can t be done. It can be done! That s where I m at. I think of it like, I m planting a seed that needs to be watered, needs to be nurtured. I might never see the end result, but it will grow. Tell me about a hopeful moment in your work. One young man, 17, was arrested for a gun. I had to interview him, and I used Restorative Practice questions to conduct the interview. I told him, The only difference between you and I is you made one different choice. And the reason you did that, is because someone didn t tell you that you re created for great things. He said, Nobody s ever told me that I had the ability to do anything. Two years later, I was at a school doing a circle with gang groups. He walked into the room and said, You don t remember me, do you? Well, you arrested me, and I ended up doing a year and a half in prison. But now I come here and mentor these kids, and I m in college for nursing. He said, What you said to me changed my whole entire life. I went home and was like, that is so awesome, that words could affect his life. That was the seed that was planted. By Krista Jahnke I don t want to see anyone else go through some of the things that I went through. 17

20 Jessie Kilgore Executive Director, Good Schools Resource Center-Detroit When Jessie E. Kilgore, Jr. talks about Detroit youth, he locks your eyes and flashes an electric smile. The former athletic director, teacher, principal and superintendent s infectious personality is necessary to get others on his side to help Detroit s children. As director of the Good Schools Resource Center-Detroit, Kilgore has his hands-on Detroit s education scene, working to build intensive support structures for teachers, students and administrators in schools within the Good Neighborhoods. I m excited about the future, Kilgore said. There is not often this kind of support for schools. We are going to turn the tide with the work we are doing. Changing Detroit s education model is a monumental task, but Kilgore is undeterred. He is a lifelong Detroiter and a product of Detroit Public Schools. He watched his childhood friends end up in gangs, hooked on drugs and without guidance. He spent his teenage years going to funerals and now feels no one should have to go through that. It saddens me, Kilgore said. So many of them had so much promise, so much potential had they just been channeled in the right way. 18

21 Do you consider yourself a champion for Detroit kids? I do. A champion is one that carries the torch for a cause, and I feel I m that torchbearer for our kids and our neighborhoods. There are many torchbearers in this city, many who never get their names in the paper. But there are many out there who are doing the good work, that hard work. How would you sum up childhood in Detroit in one word? Challenging. Our students and our kids have so many things coming at them at once. One of the things that they have that we didn t have is this whole tech nology thing. You have Facebook and texting, all the bullying that happens on the internet and in the electronic domain. It s disheartening to me. Changing Detroit s education model is a monumental task, but Kilgore is undeterred. Tell me about a time you had an encounter with a child through your work that left you angry. There was one particular student that I spent years working with. He had a lot of family issues, the father out of the home. I pulled this kid under my wing and did everything I possibly could to get him on the right track. He moved on and went to high school and I found out that he had been in a robbery and had gotten locked up. Finding out totally deflated me; I said, Oh my God, what did I miss? I took it personally. What did I not say? What did I not do that led to this? That s how personal this gets for me. It hit me deep in my gut when it happened. I was down and out for a while. I still think about him, and I should keep thinking about him. I don t ever want to get to a point where I say Oh well, I lost that one. That kid is going to come along again. By Martina Guzman 19

22 Pat Miller Retired Program Manager, U-M Technical Assistance Center When Pat Miller tries to describe what it s like trying to help neighborhoods achieve long-term, sustainable change, the word that comes to mind is messiness. Sometimes, she says, no matter how well-intentioned plans for change are, the people behind those plans lack something. Maybe it s a cohesive vision. Or the ability to analyze data. So things get messy. There are definitely changes being made, and there are definitely children reaping the benefits. But luckily, for six years, the Good Neighborhoods work had Miller to manage the mess. As the leader of the University of Michigan Technical Assistance Center, Miller ruled in bringing people the skills and connections they needed to get things done. Miller, who retired in September 2012, is a social worker by trade, and a professor by title. But she felt most at home at a community meeting in Brightmoor or Southwest Detroit. She took the Foundation s philosophy to let residents lead seriously, but always with the goal of introducing research-based best practices where they made sense. Once we understand and they let us know where they want to go and what they re thinking about, we can take a leadership role in how to get there. But we respond to where they re at because obviously they know best. At the midpoint of the Good Neighborhoods work, how much have these communities changed for kids? Clearly, we see the systems of supports, the nonprofits coming together and working in a more coordinated approach on behalf of children. We see the very beginnings of that, and that s huge. We see residents and neighborhoods coming together on behalf of children. The small grants project has made wonderful inroads there providing the opportunity for residents and churches and faith-based organizations to provide services on behalf of children. There are definitely changes being made, and there are definitely children reaping the benefits. There are clean parks, there are new parks, there s greater interest in the safety and well-being of children in the neighborhoods. 20

23 What do you wish more people understood about these neighborhoods? The strength in the neighborhoods, the determination in the neighborhoods, the drive in the neighborhoods. There s this tendency at this point for many, many, many reasons to write off the city I wish people could see the wealth of resources, the individual talents that are in these neighborhoods. If we could just give them the support they need to blossom, remarkable things will happen. Tell me about a moment when your work left you feeling hopeful. The hopeful moments were when this work took off, and we called together community meetings and talked about what needs to change for children, and hundreds and hundreds of people showed up. And it s those same people who still come out. What s the word that describes childhood in Detroit? Difficult. I don t think there s anything easy about it. It s difficult to get to school, to be in school, to find the services you need. It s just difficult. By Krista Jahnke 21

24 Bill O Brien Executive Director at the Harriet Tubman Center He didn t fully comprehend it at the time, but failing to get into Brother Rice in upscale Oakland County was the best thing that ever happened to community organizer Bill O Brien. It was 1961, and his family had just relocated to Birmingham from Indianapolis. He was 13 and very impressionable. Instead, O Brien headed for the city and began the important high school years at the University of Detroit Jesuit. Civil rights and the anti-war movements were gaining steam, O Brien recalled. I soon figured out that I wanted to do something with my life that would make the world a better place. Those teachers were inspirational. O Brien runs the Harriet Tubman Center, which trains young people to be community organizers. He organized a network of student-run agencies known as Youth VOICE, through Southwest Solutions, with support from the Skillman Foundation. There was a desire for a student-run center where students could have an impact on their futures, he said. That work led to creation of a new initiative called Our Kids Come First, which focused on neighborhoods. It was instrumental in providing more resources to the neighborhoods in civic engagement. It helped get parents, citizens, and kids involved, with a real sense they could make a difference. 22

25 The grant was extremely helpful in us getting support from the Kellogg, Kresge, and Mott Foundations. They were all watching, and noticed that Skillman stepped up and put money into Southwest Solutions, which helped us get the Harriet Tubman Center off the ground. How do you see Detroit s future? Detroit is changing. New people are moving in. Some new businesses are moving in. But at the same time, people who can, are moving out. So there s new hope, but there s still discouragement caused by abandoned houses, crime and persistent poverty. There is a lack of a real strong coherent voice for the 750,000 people in the city. Their future and the future of the city is tied to whether or not they can have a voice. What needs to happen to rebuild civil society in Detroit? It s important that we take advantage of these new city council districts, and ask people what they really want to have. We need a whole new level of civic engagement that can bring out hopefulness, creativity, and confidence, instead of depression and fear of outsiders and new ideas. Anything people would be surprised to know about you? I like poetry. Dylan Thomas and James Joyce. I m also a pretty spiritual person. I ve spent time thinking about who is God, and are we really being brought together for something stronger and better a greater humanity. And I love to play golf. I like good courses, but cheap ones. Why poetry? It gets me in touch with the pain and aspirations of people around the world who worry about their work and lives. It also reminds me of the beauty of other human beings and the beauty of creation. We need a whole new level of civic engagement that can bring out hopefulness, creativity, and confidence. Although one high school teacher tried to steer him away from poetry, he followed his bliss. English Literature was there, and I liked it. It was better than being a doctor or social scientist. He earned a Master s degree in English from Boston University in I m trying to spend more time now on the weekends exercising and reading literature. It s a New Year s resolution. By William Hanson William Hanson is director of communications at the Skillman Foundation. Follow him on 23

26 Dan Varner Executive Director, Excellent Schools Detroit If there were a Pure Detroit marketing campaign, Dan Varner would be its poster boy. Smart, tough, and tenacious, the native Detroiter and father of three children attended the University of Detroit Jesuit High School before earning bachelor s and law degrees at the University of Michigan. While working at a big downtown law firm, he founded the highly regarded youth development organization ThinkDetroit with his friend and fellow education reformer Mike Tenbusch of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. But he traded in a promising legal career to work on the front lines of the education reform struggle in Detroit. About Think- Detroit, Varner says, I was getting more satisfaction out of the 5 9 work than the 9 5, so leaving the Downtown law firm wasn t that difficult. After a brief stint at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, where he was heavily involved in the coalition that created Excellent Schools Detroit, he became its full-time CEO in September He took over an organization of two staff members to one that now employs 10. I don t think people should bet against Detroit. We ve got what it takes to make it happen. What is Excellent Schools Detroit? It s a coalition of foundations, community organizations, civic entities, and educators that s working toward the goal 90 percent of Detroit kids graduate high school, 90 percent attend college, and 90 percent succeed without remediation. Second, we need to organize the community in support of those objectives, and help folks identify, choose, and support high-quality schools. Third, we want the coalition and the community to marry. Finally, we want all Detroit kids in an excellent school by

27 How is work on those lofty goals coming? The bottom line is that we re a long way from getting there. Our school systems have not done a good job. Many people will tell you that s because Detroit is a poor city. I m here to tell you that that isn t acceptable. It would be completely inappropriate to have a less lofty goal. We need all kids to succeed. Every great success story begins with something that folks think is crazy. When the Wright brothers did what they did, people said they were crazy. And we now get on planes all the time. These numbers are movable, and we can move them fairly quickly. What inspires you about Detroit? Varner says he likes to explore Detroit neighborhoods in his free time. He lists Russell Street Deli in Eastern Market as a favorite restaurant I m a big fan of good food, especially breakfast, he said, although his lean frame shows no sign of indulgence. Associates of Varner believe he is destined for elected office. His name is routinely mentioned by insiders as the sort of person Detroit needs as mayor. Of the city he loves, he says, its hooks are deep in me. No matter his political fate in Detroit, Varner feeds off the underdog spirit and tenacity of his hometown. A swimming enthusiast for most of his life, he regularly turned heads as a member of the U-M water polo team. Not a lot of black guys in the sport, he said of the game built around stamina and toughness. It s a great game. I love it. His hard work and tenacity earned him honors as a Big 10 Most Valuable Player in his senior year. I m an optimist, so there is nothing that scares me about the city s future. I don t think people should bet against Detroit, he said with a cool and convincing confidence. We ve got what it takes to make it happen. By William Hanson 25

28 Dawn Wilson Board Member, Brightmoor Alliance Dawn Wilson moved to the Brightmoor neighborhood 13 years ago when she found a new house to rent for just $400 a month. Her husband wasn t on board: He called it Little Saigon, Wilson said. She told him in 10 years, she knew things would be different. I hadn t even heard of Skillman, Wilson said. That changed in 2007 when Wilson attended a meeting for the Community Connections Small Grants program. She hoped it could give her business a lift. But Wilson, who performs as Kuddles the Hip Hop Clown, learned that the program, which doles out grants in the $500 to $5,000 range, doesn t fund businesses. Regardless, she felt inspired and wanted to get involved. I was humbled and honored, because for the past 15 years, I d been spending my life making kids smile. To do it with a greater impact was just amazing to me. 26

29 Wilson joined the Brightmoor Alliance and became a member of the resident panel that meets monthly to decide which community groups, block clubs and small nonprofits should get grants. Now, she s not waiting for anyone else to come in and change Brightmoor; she s doing what she can daily to make it happen herself. She s now a board member on Brightmoor Alliance, and with a small grant, started her own block club on Patton Street. She organizes street clean-ups and parties, has helped build community gardens, and treats any children she sees like she s their mother or aunt, asking them what they re up to. And she s been inspired to go back to school: she s enrolled in an urban planning certification program at a community college. I just thank God that I m here, to be a part of this transformation. What moves you to take on all of these challenges and commitments? The children. I ve been a professional clown for 18 years, and so many of our children are facing so many obstacles and things that they have no control over. To be able to give them a moment of happiness or a moment away from dealing with drama. The [small grants program] allows me to do that on a larger scale. I just want to be the smile in somebody s rainbow. What do you think it s like to be a child in Detroit? It depends on who you re around. For some children, it s horrible. But for some it s beautiful. It depends. It really depends. For those for whom it s horrible, I will quote Arne Duncan, who said, I lose sleep at night when I think about what the adults have done to the children in the city of Detroit. Do you think of yourself as a leader for kids in Detroit? If I m a role model, that s OK. But I just want to make people smile. I want them to know they can be happy, even in all of this mess that we witness in the city of Detroit. I just want to be the smile in somebody s rainbow. By Krista Jahnke 27

30 YOUTH PROFILES» The next generation of tenacious leaders with a heart for Detroit is already hard at work. Attend a youth event in the Skillman neighborhoods, and you ll find remarkable young people playing a vital role in their communities efforts to make Detroit a city where all of our children can thrive. These young activists are not only making a difference in their schools and neighborhoods today, they re developing the leadership skills, networks, and passion for social and economic justice essential to Detroit s future. Meet three of these future leaders of Detroit. All were honored in Skillman s 50 Promising Youth Scholars in 2010, and both Stepha N and Hanan serve as members of Skillman s 2016 Task Force, which holds the Foundation accountable to is goals. By Paul Krell Paul Krell is principal of Kalamazoo-based Krell Strategic Communications. Follow him on 28

31 » Stepha N Quicksey Five years ago, few would have bet Stepha N Quicksey would graduate from high school. None of his siblings had graduated, and in middle school, Stepha N was a class clown, with grades that were a joke: one term his GPA was zero-point-three. That s one C, one D, and the rest Fs, he said.» But after church attendance inspired him to try harder, Stepha N started his first year of high school with a radical experiment. I decided to do something I d never done before isolate myself and study, he said. His experiment worked. In his first term at Osborn Academy of Math, Science and Technology, a charter school within Osborn High School, the ex-class clown earned a 3.63 GPA. He hasn t slacked off since. I m now a 4.0 student, said Stepha N, who was a senior honors student at Osborn in the fall of But Stepha N hasn t forgotten what it s like being a young kid trying to navigate Detroit s northeast side, passing gangs on the street on the way to school, and seeing kids getting high in abandoned buildings. Since his sophomore year, he s worked with younger kids as a youth leader in the Neighborhood Service Organization s Youth Initiative Project (a Skillman Foundation grantee), led by Frank McGhee. We talk with middle-school kids about gang violence, drug abuse, gun violence, bullying, Stepha N said. I want to change the mindset of my peers and encourage them to look beyond drugs to their future, to realize their potential. Stepha N stresses that Detroit s young people urgently need positive role models. Kids fall into traps, he said. It s difficult for them to go and show who they really are. I want them to look up and see that it s possible, it s doable. Stepha N plans to major in criminal justice in college and pursue a career as an FBI agent; he also hopes to eventually start his own business. Skillman is one of the most significant impacts on my life, Stepha N said. I m grateful and blessed for all the opportunities. 29

32 » Hanan Yahya At a time when many of Detroit s most promising young people dream of escaping the city, Hanan Yahya, a first-year student at the University of Michigan, has a different vision for her future. I love Detroit. I have faith in Detroit, she said. That s why I m taking my education back to Detroit.» Hanan was born in Yemen and came to Detroit with her family in 1997, at the age of 3. Her family settled in the Chadsey Condon neighborhood, on the border of Southwest Detroit and Dearborn. As a young Muslim girl growing up in post-9/11 America, Hanan was acutely aware of the anti-arab, anti-islam sentiment permeating American society, and even her own neighborhood, a part of a metropolitan area that s home to one of the oldest and largest Arab-American communities in the United States. We need to eliminate fear in people s hearts, she said. That s the number one problem in our community. Once that fear is gone, that will be the first step in getting to know each other and embracing each other s cultures. Hanan became involved in her community as a student at Universal Academy, when Aswan Almaktary, of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), persuaded her to participate in a program called JIRAN Join in Revitalizing Arab-American Neighborhoods. Before Aswan reached out to her, Hanan said she never thought about getting involved. But when she began to consider it, Hanan liked what she found. You see all these people, all these opportunities. She jumped at them. In 2009, Hanan was the Youth Outreach Coordinator for ACCESS s Bridging Communities program, and in 2010 she became the youth representative on the Chadsey Condon Community Organization. She s also stayed involved in JIRAN, and has participated in a number of JIRAN-sponsored Diversity Dialogues, which bring young people together to discuss racial, religious, cultural and other issues. Youth have less bigotry, she said. We re more open-minded. Hanan plans to pursue a double major in international studies and political science or sociology at the University of Michigan. I m the first in my family to go to a prestigious university like Michigan, and the first Yemini to live on campus in Ann Arbor, Hanan said. I can turn back and say, Here s what you need to do. You can do it, you have options. 30

33 » Agoberto Guerra Agoberto Guerra s community involvement began in 2011, when he landed a summer job as an interviewer for the community youth mapping project organized by Southwest Solutions. A graduate of Anderson High School, Agoberto was one of the project s team of 48 youth researchers who walked every street of their Southwest Detroit neighborhood twice, administering surveys to government agencies, churches, and nonprofits, while also mapping vacant properties and rating the condition of the neighborhood s housing stock.» That led to being hired by Data Driven Detroit, a non profit demographic research and analysis group, as a 2012 interviewer for another Skillman-funded survey. Through both, Agoberto gained valuable work experience, along with a deeper understanding of the challenges young people and families face in a city struggling with high unemployment, poverty and drop-out rates. Every year there are people moving out, Agoberto says of his neighborhood. There s lots of violence, lots of vandalism. There s no protection for younger kids. Agoberto notes that many young people have given up hope of ever finding a decent job. They quit school and drift into gangs, drugs and despair. We need to restore hope, Agoberto said. And we need a lot more jobs so they can have a stable, steady life. Now in his second year at Henry Ford Community College, Agoberto foresees a career in industrial or mechanical engineering. No matter where he goes, he said, I want to stay involved in the community. I want to give back to the community what they did for me. 31

34 News briefs» Carol Goss announces retirement; Tonya Allen named successor On Dec. 6, 2012, Skillman Foundation president & CEO Carol Goss announced she ll retire at the end of Tonya Allen, chief operating officer and vice president of program for the Foundation, was named the next president & CEO by the Board of Trustees, effective January 1, While accepting the planned resignation, the Board applauded the exemplary accomplishments of Goss during her decade of service as CEO. Carol Goss has led the Skillman Board and staff on a remarkable journey during her tenure to redefine the role of the Foundation in improving the lives of Detroit s most vulnerable children, said David Baker Lewis, then chairman of the Board of Trustees. Carol s trailblazing vision of a foundation becoming a strategic funding partner in improving the conditions that effect the lives of children has become a reality in Detroit and the nation, through the force of her vision and her ability to persuade others to take up the cause. There is no clearer example of this vision than her groundbreaking work on education reform in Detroit. The torch is passed. Carol Goss and Tonya Allen share a laugh and a hug at a press conference announcing the Foundation s leadership transition. 32

35 As for her successor, Goss said: She is an exceptional leader, and is probably the smartest person I know in this work. Allen joined the Foundation in 2004, and had been COO of the Foundation since She developed the Foundation s 10-year, $100 million Good Neighborhoods program, and as COO, oversees the Foundation s main programs, communications and technology operations, as well as talent development. Olekszyk named to Crain s 40 Under 40 list Crain s Detroit Business In October 2012, Crain s Detroit Business named Skillman Foundation CFO and Treasurer Danielle Olekszyk to its 40 Under 40 list. The publication honors achievers in the community with this award that recognizes professionals in Southeast Michigan who have made an impact before age 40. Olekszyk was chosen for her work to restructure the Foundation s budget during the economic downturn in 2008, enabling The Skillman Foundation to spend $11.4 million more in grants in 2009 and 2010 than is required by the IRS. Vice President, Operations Danielle Olekszyk, center, accepts her 40 Under 40 Award from Crain s Publisher and Skillman Foundation Trustee Mary Kramer, and David Foltyn, CEO of Honigman. Foundation Receives Friend of Education Award The National Association of State Boards of Education awarded The Skillman Foundation the Friend of Education Award. The national award was presented in October 2012 at the NASBE s national conference to Skillman Program Director Kristen McDonald. It is given annually to an organization or individual for significant contributions in education. 33

36 Tonya Allen honored as innovator to watch, and Smith Award recipient In January 2013, the Chronicle of Philanthropy picked five nonprofit innovators to watch in 2013, and one of them was Skillman s own Tonya Allen. In the article, Ben Hecht of Living Cities described Allen as wicked smart. In August 2011, the Michigan Forum for African Americans in Philanthropy selected Allen as the first recipient of the Dr. Gerald K. Smith Award for Philanthropy. Dr. Smith, who passed away in 2008, was the President & CEO of YouthVille Detroit. Goss and Dr. Smith co-founded the Michigan Forum of African Americans, which is an affinity group sponsored by the Council of Michigan Foundations. The Dr. Gerald K. Smith Award for Philanthropy honors the work and philosophy of Dr. Smith, a pioneer in the field. The award recognizes significant efforts and contributions of individuals whose work and grantmaking activities promote effective and responsive social change in communities of color. Michigan Chronicle selects Thornton for Men of Excellence Skillman Foundation Program Officer Robert Thornton was selected as one of the 2012 Men of Excellence by the Michigan Chronicle. Thornton was selected as one of 50 men from the metro Detroit community with outstanding professional accomplishments who has served as a leader for the African American community. Thornton is responsible for oversight of the Foundation s Good Neighborhoods work in the Brightmoor and Cody Rouge communities. Senior Program Officer Robert Thornton shows off his Men of Excellence Award. 34

37 Small Grants program hits $2 million milestone In March 2013, the Community Connections Small Grants program topped the $2 million mark of dollars awarded since the program s inception in The program has provided funding for more than 600 community groups. The total in grants awarded through this program hit $2,028,701 that month. Staff realigned to fit new strategic vision In spring 2013, the Skillman Foundation adopted a new strategic framework, and announced several staff changes that reflect that renewed vision for its work for Detroit children. Those new appointments included 11 internal promotions, including three new vice presidents. Kristen McDonald is now serving as the Foundation s vice president, program and policy. She has been with the Foundation since Chris Uhl was promoted to vice president, social innovation. And Danielle Olekszyk was promoted to vice president, operations, where she will oversee the Foundation s operations and investments, including human resources, grants management, technology and administration. Kristen McDonald is now serving as the Foundation s vice president, program and policy. 35

38 Financials» Annual Report Grants Summary 2010: Number of grants approved: 782* Grants awarded: $26,393, : Number of grants approved: 622* Grants awarded: $17,354,036 Small grants: The amount awarded for 2010 and 2011** respectively was $280,736 (70 grants) and $310,546 (96 grants). January 2010 to December 2011 Number of grants approved: 166 grants Grants awarded: $591,282 * Total number of grants includes traditional boardapproved grants, as well as matching gifts of Skillman staff and Trustees. ** The Foundation awards grants to nonprofit organizations with federal tax-exempt status and revenues greater than $100,000. Through the Small Grants program, the Foundation can provide opportunities beyond these limitations to small organizations and residents working in our six Good Neighborhoods communities. To make this possible, we have partnered with Prevention Network, an organization that has managed a statewide small grants program for more than 25 years. 36

39 Statements of Financial Position ASSETS Cash and cash equivalents Investments, at fair value Other, including accrued interest and dividends Total assets ,413 8, , ,497 1,026 18, , ,100 LIABILITIES AND UNRESTRICTED NET ASSETS Grants payable Accounts payable and accrued liabilities Unrestricted net assets Total liabilities and unrestricted net assets Total liabilities and unrestricted net assets and changes in unrestricted net assets INCOME Interest Dividends, other Investment management fees Total Income 5,225 1, , ,850 1,703 2,889 (694) 3,898 5,880 1, , ,100 2,093 2,587 (1,037) 3,644 EXPENSES Grants paid Grant related expenses Administrative expenses Federal excise and other taxes Total Expenses 16, , ,740 21, , ,451 Grants and expenses in excess of income Realized gain on securities Change in unrealized market appreciation Change in unrealized market appreciation Unrestricted net assets, beginning of year Unrestricted net assets, end of year (18,843) (4,247) 4,251 (18,839) 439, ,022 (23,807) ,667 16, , ,860 37

40 HOW TO APPLY FOR A SKILLMAN GRANT Skillman Foundation grantseekers and grantees must: Be a nonprofit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization or a government or public agency (city, county, state, public school district); be a publicly supported charity as defined in Section 509(a) of the Internal Revenue Code; have total revenues of at least $100,000 for the preceding fiscal year and must provide a copy of a current financial audit conducted by an independent certified public accountant. In policy and practice, offer opportunity and service to all, regardless of age, race, creed, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation and ethnicity. Learn more at skillman.org. WHAT WE FUND The Foundation has an annual investments budget of $17 million. We currently fund projects that benefit children explicitly and work in our investments areas of education, community leadership, safety, neighborhoods, social innovation and youth development. Most of our funding supports work happening in six Detroit neighborhoods: Brightmoor, Cody Rouge, Chadsey Condon, Northend Central, Osborn and Southwest Detroit. Approximately 85 percent of the Foundation s grantmaking is to long-term partners in our community. OUR MISSION A voice for Detroit children since 1960, the Skillman Foundation works to improve meaningful graduation rates, so youth are prepared for college, career, and life. 38

41 HISTORY Our founder, Rose Skillman, has been gone for more than a quarter-century, but her unwavering advocacy for children lives on through the Skillman Foundation s work and leadership in Detroit. That strong leadership most recently came from President & CEO Carol Goss, who steered the Foundation s course for nearly a decade. It will continue through Tonya Allen, who will become the Foundation s sixth president on Jan. 1, Allen will guide the Foundation through a strategic shift, as it refocuses all of its work on a singular goal: advancing meanginful high school graduation rates, so youth are prepared for college, career, and life. Rose and Robert Skillman, both born in Ohio, married in Cincinnati in One of the early pioneers in the growth of the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, Robert served as the company s sales representative for the eastern half of the country, developed 3M s foreign sales in England and Europe, and became the company s vice president and director. Following several initial years of struggle, the company flourished as continuous advances in technology led to the inventions of waterproof sandpaper, masking tape and Scotch tape. After a long career at 3M, Robert retired and moved with Rose to Bloomfield Hills and Winter Park, Fla. In Bloomfield Hills, the Skillmans purchased Fairfield Farms, which they transformed into a replica of a white-fenced Kentucky farm, complete with a stable of horses and colts. In 1939, Robert Skillman returned to 3M to negotiate the purchase of the Studebaker plant on Piquette Street in the Milwaukee Junction area of Detroit s Central Northend neighborhood. He also coordinated the project that would transform the facility into an adhesive plant. He worked for this company as an executive consultant until his death in After Robert s death, Rose Skillman continued to live in Bloomfield Hills and Florida for nearly 40 more years until her death in In addition to her love of animals particularly horses and dogs and her appreciation of the arts, Rose Skillman s commitment to the welfare of vulnerable children continued to grow. Initially, she made charitable contributions to organizations that served children. Subsequently, she worked with her attorney and accountant to incorporate The Skillman Foundation in December She served as president until she was named honorary chair in She remained a Trustee of the Foundation until her death. The Skillman Foundation staff and Trustees are committed to honoring Rose Skillman s dreams, and to using our grantmaking funds and institutional clout to be an effective voice for Detroit children. 39